September 19, 2021

The time is now

Case Study By

Mr. Hans Vestberg

Chief Executive Officer, Verizon

State of Broadband 2021

The ideas and opinions expressed in this insight are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of ITU and UNESCO or the Broadband Commission. The mention of specific companies, products or services does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by ITU or UNESCO or Broadband Commission in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.

2020 was a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic presented unparalleled challenges, including devastating health and economic impacts for our society. As a company, Verizon navigated obstacles that forced us to alter our ways of working, communicating and operating to keep people connected. Collectively we saw how broadband networks and services are vital to so many aspects of our daily lives, including our health, education, work and safety.
We leapfrogged 5-7 years forward in the digital revolution in just one calendar year, proving that mobility, broadband and cloud services are the 21st century infrastructure on which everything will operate. This has created unprecedented opportunity, but it has also created incredible vulnerability for those who are not currently connected. This challenge will be enduring unless we act now.

Verizon is working with communities and the government to help tackle this issue by expanding digital access with affordable and usable products and services, promoting digital literacy with innovative programs directed toward underserved communities and urging holistic and broad solutions to address the digital divide.

For instance, we immediately recognized the urgency for school districts to quickly and seamlessly secure connectivity for students to participate in remote learning during the pandemic. We launched a new national Verizon Distance Learning program, where we have partnered with independent school districts and state departments of education to deliver 4G LTE wireless connectivity, devices and other solutions to students in the United States. In particular, we are providing K-12 institutions with reliable connectivity, devices (i.e., hotspots/MiFi units), mobile device management and other security/ compliance apps that school districts rely on to support distance learning at significantly discounted rates. By the end of 2020, discounted internet access, devices and security solutions were available for purchase by school districts to support distance learning across 41 states and the District of Columbia.

No single actor can address this challenge alone. Strong, multi-stakeholder leadership and partnership is needed if we are to make progress. The UN Broadband Commission has championed connectivity as fundamental to a sustainable and inclusive world and must continue in this important work to strengthen the digital foundation for the 2030 Global Goals.

Verizon is also leading the World Economic Forum to establish the EDISON Alliance, of which the Broadband Commission is a foundational part, to mobilize all sectors of the economy to address access, affordability and usability of digital services. This Alliance draws on cross-industry, cross-sector and cross-jurisdictional perspectives to drive ideas for impact, identify leading practices, and scale existing partnerships and initiatives across health, education and finance.

Our most important work is still ahead. It is imperative that we work collectively to accelerate digital inclusion and a sustainable future for all.  The time is now.