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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

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

Updated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated".
  2. Vaccines: Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers COVID testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Chargés d'Affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and non-essential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory released Sunday evening.

Why it matters: The move underscores U.S. fears that a Russian invasion could destabilize Ukraine and threaten embassy's ability to assist Americans.