The stunningly rapid advancement of the lethal coronavirus caught societies and medical communities off-guard and ill-prepared to deal with prevention and containment measures, and catastrophic loss of life.
A vast range of consequences has dramatically altered the daily lives of the planet’s citizens while the dire, unseen risk of infection remains ever present.
As families have hunkered down in quarantine and others have been forced to weather the uncertainty alone, one common conduit has served to bind people together and provide a connection to the world beyond our four-walled confinement.
School systems and businesses were quick to embrace technology as the only avenue to keep schoolwork on course and workers on the job remotely. Nationally, 84% of households have broadband internet access.
The crisis has created a tremendous surge in broadband demand as more Americans turned to the internet to work remotely, shop, stream entertainment, use social media to stay connected, and access to telemedicine – the only health care option in many isolated areas.
Thanks in large part to private investment and free-market regulations, the U.S. was well-prepared to accommodate the dramatic leap in demand for broadband. In most areas of the nation the internet backbone has held up extremely well, though only 13% of the population has access to speeds above 1 gigabit per second. Even so, across Europe and other parts of the world internet access and networks have been overwhelmed by the surge in demand.
Last Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, announced a plan to boost Wi-Fi across the country. Mr. Pai proposed to make 1,200 megahertz of the 6 GHz mid-band spectrum available for unlicensed use, thus effectively boosting Wi-Fi spectrum capacity by 500%. Once in place, more inter-operable 5G devices such as smart appliances will have seamless connections operating at lightening speeds so users can do more things, more efficiently online.
Though universal 5G is still some time away from reality, the technological advancements to come will create a digital superhighway with speeds up to 100 gigabits per second – as much as 100 times faster than today’s 4G.
COVID-19 has impacted every sector of the tech industry. The manufacture of products has been disrupted, workers have had to adapt, and tech services had to be re-engineered. Certainly U.S. health workers who have been fighting the battle on the front lines, at great personal risk, are unquestionably today’s heroes.
However, the contribution and laser-focus of the tech industry cannot be discounted. From the manufacturing of products, access to digital services, to new rules and constraints under which tech employees work, the industry has risen to the greatest challenge it has faced in modern times.
Those in working the technology industry and the companies that continue to invest the America’s digital infrastructure will greatly influence what our future looks like in the face of the next national crisis.