1 1 (May 21, 2020)

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                   Resarh Service






Broadband Connectivity and COVID-19:

The FCC's Response



May 21, 2020
As states and localities have directed their citizens to stay home in response to the COVID-19 outbreak,
internet traffic in the United States has shifted dramatically. The greater number of individuals working
remotely over the internet, participating in online education, and seeking online sources of entertainment
threatens to place an increasing strain on American internet networks. The Federal Communications
Commission (FCC or Commission) has thus far focused its response on expanding internet access and
ensuring that networks can support increased traffic. Along with its widely publicized Keep Americans
Connected Initiative-an elective pledge for communications providers-the FCC has taken a number of
regulatory actions aimed at promoting internet connectivity. This Sidebar provides an overview of how
COVID-19 has affected the FCC's operations, some ways the FCC has responded thus far, and common
criticisms and perceived shortcomings of the FCC's approach.

Operations Affected by COVID-19
The FCC's regulatory authority under the Communications Act of 1934 encompasses communications
made by wire or radio in interstate or foreign commerce. Over time, this authority has evolved to include
a growing number of responsibilities relating to the provision of wireless internet and telephone services.
The FCC also oversees a number of programs aimed at advancing internet and telephone accessibility
among rural, low-income, and disabled individuals.

Regulatory Authority over Wireless Internet Services
Title III of the Communications Act establishes a federal policy of controlling radio spectrum in the
United States and licensing its use. The FCC has primary responsibility for allocating nonfederal radio
spectrum-i.e., designating the uses for bands of spectrum-and then licensing those bands to a variety of
entities. When executing this authority, the Commission must consider whether the public interest,
convenience, and necessity will be served by granting an entity a spectrum license.
Among those who license spectrum from the FCC are wireless internet and voice service providers. The
Commission has historically licensed spectrum to these providers from a band of frequencies known as
the Advanced Wireless Services band. The FCC grants licenses to operate at a given frequency such that a
particular entity's use of spectrum does not cause interference with another entity's. The amount of
                                                                 Congressional Research Service
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