Despite the gorgeous weather in large swaths of the country, the recent spread of COVID-19 and extensions of stay at home orders by several governors is forcing many Americans to stay indoors. Just a few years ago, this kind of large-scale self-isolation would have taken an even greater mental toll on people, but thankfully, today’s communications technologies have softened the blow.
People are able to play video games, board games, and even Dungeons and Dragons online. Zoom and other video conferencing services have become the go-to technology for online happy hours with friends and coworkers. Meanwhile, streaming services and the seemingly endless amount of quality content they offer have become even more important to movie night. You can even use an app to sync up Netflix with your friends.
The Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation Director Eric Peterson recently hosted Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on the PeliCast, where they discussed how the internet is holding up during this extraordinary time.
Chairman Pai said despite other countries experiencing difficulty in handling the recent increase in internet traffic, American networks are holding strong. Even with traffic up over 20 percent, similar to the spike seen during the Super Bowl, America’s internet has proven as resilient as its people.
In Europe, regulators have asked Netflix to reduce the picture quality of content to ensure everyone can get online. This isn’t because the regulators want their citizens to have a worse viewing experience. European networks simply can’t handle the traffic. American internet resilience is due to the great private investment spurred on by the light regulatory touch of the FCC. Rather than sticking with the heavy-handed regulation of the internet under Title II, otherwise known as Net Neutrality, the FCC has worked to remove red tape. As a result, private investment in networks has continued to bloom.
The FCC also has taken proactive steps to connect Americans. By reworking the universal service fund, it has been able to connect more Americans for fewer taxpayer dollars. This fund will spend $20 billion over the next 10 years to provide broadband access to previously unserved areas. The FCC is also working to spend $9 billion to provide 5G wireless service to rural areas as well.
Even though bringing people together for a drink isn’t as important as technologies like telemedicine and online learning, connecting people remains an essential part of the human experience, especially in the times we’re currently facing.
So whether you want to learn how to play video games or just see a friendly face, let’s give three cheers to the American networks that are currently making it possible.