Within the first month of 2020’s pandemic shutdowns, the United States saw an 18 percent increase in at-home internet usage as all aspects of people’s day-to-day lives — from work to education — transitioned online.
Students from elementary through post-grad scrambled to move to a virtual learning space. More than 55 million of them had to make this sudden shift, and an at-home, reliable internet connection instantly went from “nice” to absolutely necessary. Thirty percent, however, couldn’t afford the cost of high-speed internet, simultaneously highlighting and reinforcing inequities in education.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel of the Federal Communications Commission coined this divide the “homework gap”.
Telecom providers quickly stepped up to the challenge, moving to close it by:
- Waiving or limiting charges to limited-income households for installation, overages and monthly payments
- Increasing trial periods for better internet plans
- Reducing charges for internet upgrades
- Activating a business continuity plan (BCP); a document that outlines how your business operations will continue given an unplanned disruption in your services
- Expanding coverage in areas where internet is less accessible
- Lowering payment plans for smart devices that provide access to classes and class materials
By taking these actions, telecom providers significantly decreased the barriers to learning from home. These are life altering solutions for low-income families, and as marketers we know it’s important they don’t remain a best-kept secret.
How Spawn Helped
Spawn helped GCI, a regional telecommunications client, ease consumer concerns during back-to-school season and initial hunker down efforts by creating a campaign that provided free access to mobile or internet service to students and teachers as houses became the new classrooms.
This telecommunications client also increased its services to rural areas — giving students availability to school-provided content online, with no impact to their home usage internet plans.
These efforts show the importance of telecommunications clients not only delivering these assistance programs, but successfully communicating them to the public through our services.
A Look to The Future
Showcasing efforts like these, inspired by the pandemic and focused on creating a more equitable society, meets a powerful consumer desire for relevant, engaged brands. Eighty-six percent of consumers trust brands to make a difference in social ills, expecting even more from businesses than they do from government because they believe brands are more accountable and faster to act (Edelman, 2020).
The current administration seems to expect this kind of progress on the telecom front as well. A focus on equitable internet access will continue given President Biden’s desire to make narrowing the digital divide an ‘Early Urgent Priority’.
Recently, House and Senate Democrats announced a new proposal to make broadband internet access more accessible and affordable nationwide. This proposal will be one of the most costly and ambitious broadband packages proposed in recent years, aiming to bring internet service to areas where it doesn’t exist, improve speeds where it’s sluggish and help families who are struggling to pay their monthly bills.
By sharing with consumers the efforts telecoms have made to help meet a growing societal need, these businesses are also communicating with policymakers their interest in being a part of these ongoing legislative and political developments.
And telecoms are just one industry encountering this emerging expectation for businesses to act in the public interest during momentous times. This is as a trend that extends to the broader business ecosystem, touching industries from food and grocery to travel and tourism, and many recognize it including Malia Lazu, a lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management who sees a “generational shift in America toward increasing justice and collective responsibility.” Lazu goes on to say that, as a result, “institutions, including corporations, will make incremental change.” (New York Times)
Proving that you serve your customers — and the greater good — is more essential today than ever.
If you need help navigating how to create fresh customer experiences and buzz for your brand during difficult times, get a new product in the market, or simply telling your brand story, Spawn can help.
- Edsall, T.B. (2021, April 13). https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/14/opinion/woke-capitalism-democratic-party-us.html
- Carufel, R. (2019, March 23). Consumers expect all industries to demonstrate CSR-but especially these three. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/public-relations/consumers-expect-all-industries-to-demonstrate-csr-but-especially-these-three/
- Clement, J. (2021, January 8). Topic: Coronavirus: Impact on online usage in the U.S. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.statista.com/topics/6241/coronavirus-impact-on-online-usage-in-the-us/
- Edelman, R. (2021, November 11). The action mandate for Brands during crisis. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.edelman.com/research/the-action-mandate-for-brands#:~:text=This%20could%20be%20the%20most%20complex%20time%20ever%20for%20brands.&text=Fears%20shift%20what%20people%20value,issues%20while%20solving%20personal%20challenges.
- Fazlullah, A., & Ong, S. (2019). THE HOMEWORK GAP: Teacher Perspectives on Closing the Digital Divide. Retrieved April 6, 2021, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/kids_action/homework-gap-report-2019.pdf
- Garcia, E., & Weiss, E. (2020, September 10). COVID-19 and student performance, equity, and U.S. EDUCATION policy: Lessons From PRE-PANDEMIC research to inform RELIEF, recovery, and rebuilding. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.epi.org/publication/the-consequences-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-for-education-performance-and-equity-in-the-united-states-what-can-we-learn-from-pre-pandemic-research-to-inform-relief-recovery-and-rebuilding/
- Romm, T. (2021, March 11). House, Senate Democrats UNVEIL $94 billion bill to improve internet access. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/11/house-senate-internet-broadband/