Seeing the silver linings in the COVID-19 cloud that has hovered over us since the beginning of the year can be challenging. Yet, it’s important to note that high-speed internet service is allowing millions of individuals to remain employed by working at home and it’s supporting our children as they return to school. Nevertheless, challenges do remain.
Lack — On the surface, it seems as if every family member has access to a smartphone, while tablets and laptops are abundant throughout the population. While this may be true for some, in reality, even as late as 2018, nearly 17 million children lived in homes without access to high-speed internet. In addition, in the same year, more than 7 million children did not have access to computers within the home.
Many of these children likely turned to local libraries or school resources when they needed access to computers. Now as many schools and libraries remain closed, a significant number of children are left without access to these essential tools.
Another issue stems from the fact that many families are experiencing job loss within the home. Even if they have access to internet services, they may be either behind on their internet bills or unable to pay them altogether.
Uncertainty — No one truly knows when COVID will finally subside. As we’ve seen already, some schools have opened and then have had to pull back after an outbreak occurred. Other schools have decided that 100% remote learning is the best option for their students at this time.
There is no one solution that will resolve the issues COVID has forced companies, schools, and universities to face, however, there are several ways telecom providers can help mitigate the challenges people and students are experiencing.
Lower Rates, Expand Hotspots — Some internet service providers already offer reduced rates to low-income households. While this certainly has the potential to positively affect many students, it may not be enough in families where both caregivers are out of work and unable to pay even a lower rate.
Service providers may also want to consider expanding the availability of Wi-Fi hotspots in underserved areas, which then essentially act as substitutes for closed libraries and schools.
Enlist the Aid of Streaming Companies — As more and more students throughout the United States begin to get online in the upcoming weeks, it may be necessary to ask streaming companies to cut back on their use of bandwidth. In March of this year, Netflix was asked to reduce their streaming quality in Europe by 25% in order to leave sufficient bandwidth for other vital services.
Meet the Need for Growth — Unlike many other industries hard-hit by the pandemic, the telecom industry is a service that will likely experience rapid expansion for years to come. Some of the areas that will affect this growth include:
- Schools and universities.
- Increasing dependence on remote work.
- Increased interest in telemedicine.
- Businesses that went online to stay afloat.
Just as the advent of public use of the internet changed the world, so will the telecom industry as it responds to the demands brought on by a world-wide pandemic.
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