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Expand chart
Data: OpenVault; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Increased broadband usage is a pandemic trend that's here to say, analysts and telecom executives argue.

The big picture: Broadband usage increased 40% over the past year, the highest annual growth rate in nearly 10 years, according to new data from OpenVault. The massive jump is attributed to people spending more time at home with their devices, primarily streaming video.

  • "We predict that by December 2021, the average broadband consumption per household will be around 600-650 gigabytes," says Mark Trudeau, founder and CEO of OpenVault, a broadband data and analytics solutions provider.
  • That's more than six times the average broadband consumption level since 2015.

Driving the news: Comcast said last week that it anticipates it will see double-digit growth in broadband additions this year compared to 2019, which prior to the pandemic was its best year ever.

  • In the first quarter of 2021, it added 461,000 broadband customers, helping to offset the heavy losses from its Pay-TV business. Comcast Chief Financial Officer Mike Cavanagh said that time period "marked the lowest broadband churn in our history."
  • Speaking to broadband spike trends, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told analysts "The demand for broadband will continue. We are just starting a total revolution of using technology, which is scalable and sustainable in the post era of the COVID."

What's happening: High-speed internet access became vital for school and work during the pandemic, with lawmakers and the Biden administration citing it as a key part of the nation's infrastructure.

  • Congress created a $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which launches May 12, that will give low-income households a $50 monthly subsidy for internet service.

Yes, but: President Biden has said long-term subsidies are not the answer to covering the cost of “overpriced” internet service.

  • Instead, his $100 billion broadband plan calls for lowering the prices for all Americans, raising concerns from the telecom sector about potential price regulation.

Be smart: Broadband providers agreed last year to not kick anyone off of their internet plans who couldn't pay because of the pandemic as part of the FCC's Keep Americans Connected pledge.

What's next: On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on broadband equity that will address disparities in access and affordability.

Go deeper

52 mins ago - Health

Biden reaches agreements with Uber and Lyft to give free rides to vaccine sites

A coronavirus vaccination site in Miami on May 10. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Biden administration has reached agreements with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to offer free rides to coronavirus vaccination sites through July 4, the White House announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The free rides, starting in the next two weeks, are part of the Biden administration's push to administer at least one vaccine dose to 70% of U.S. adults by Independence Day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Biden officials green-light nation's first big offshore wind project

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration today gave final approval to Vineyard Wind, a project off the Massachusetts coast slated to be the country's first large-scale offshore wind farm.

Why it matters: While the green-light for the long-proposed projected was expected, it marks a key step in White House plans to help spur development of a suite of coastal projects off New York, New Jersey and other states.

Global temperatures are cooler in 2021 than other recent years

Data: NASA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

With a moderate La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, global temperatures in 2021 are running decidedly cooler when compared to recent years.

Why it matters: The lack of a new warmest year record in 2021 could sap some of the sense of urgency among policymakers in the U.S. and abroad during a critical year for enacting stricter emissions cuts to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.