USTelecom CEO: Our Commitment to Connectivity During COVID-19
By Jonathan Spalter
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a national challenge to our society, our economy and the infrastructure that undergirds it. As CEO of USTelecom | The Broadband Association, I am proud to report on behalf of our members, and their dedicated employees, that the nation remains well-connected while we are apart.
Communities in America, and around the world, are depending on their communications providers as never before, relying on broadband connectivity for nearly every aspect of our daily routine, and even more so in these times of physical distancing. For work, health, education, and our personal relationships, broadband connections are essential lifelines and the underlying supporting infrastructure that powers these networks remains resilient, strong and ready to meet the critical needs of our citizens.
Our network resilience was not an accident. In recent years, broadband providers have made sizable infrastructure investments — almost $80 billion in 2018 — to upgrade networks for both speed and capacity to meet the ever-expanding consumer demand for data usage.
Currently, more than 60 percent of network traffic is video and content streaming. Data flows have continued to increase annually, and we have invested to ensure that our networks have sufficient capacity to provide customers with necessary bandwidth, even as usage during peak hour periods has expanded during the COVID-19 crisis.
USTelecom members are rising to the challenge collectively, as well as individually. Our association endorsed, and many of USTelecom’s members have taken, the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected Pledge” not to terminate service and to waive late fees for the next 60 days, recognizing these are challenging financial times for many consumers. Companies also have committed to removing data caps during this crisis period, recognizing how critical our wireline networks are to telemedicine, distance learning and remote work, all of which are relying on video communications now being used simultaneously by millions across the country. This effort requires service providers to carefully manage their networks so they can continue to provide connectivity to all users, including the public safety community that is also dependent on this network.
USTelecom members — from local and regional rural providers, to the world’s largest communications carriers, to the innovative technology providers we partner with — are also taking their own leadership initiatives in their communities across the country, and around the globe. I encourage you to visit www.ustelecom.org/covid19 to see how USTelecom members are taking extraordinary steps to meet the connectivity needs of the hundreds of millions of families, communities and enterprises they serve, no matter where, no matter what.
Our commitment to connectivity also means a commitment to transparency. As of this writing, in communities where large numbers of workers are being told to stay home, we have not observed time shifted traffic exceeding peak network capacity. Similarly, providers have not reported material congestion or internet latency issues. These are the network capacity metrics we are monitoring around the clock to assess how the infrastructure is tolerating the internet’s changing business, education and social uses. In the coming days we will be posting regular updates on the state of our networks as events unfold.
And, of course, we continue to stay in constant contact with our partners in government, including the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, in Congress, at various state safety agencies, and with key international bodies. This includes the sharing of mission critical functions, network incident response and business continuity plans. We also are working closely in partnership with state and federal law enforcement through the USTelecom-led Industry Traceback Group to ensure any bad actors seeking to take advantage of our citizens during this time of emergency are swiftly identified, blocked, and brought to justice.
This is a challenging moment for our country and global community, but every company we represent is committed to the principles of network preparedness and resiliency — in good times and through trying ones. Broadband is the 21st century’s indispensable resource, never more so than in an environment where COVID-19 is reshaping the way we interact with our families, colleagues and fellow citizens.
President and CEO
USTelecom | The Broadband Association