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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

Clinton-linked lawyer indicted in investigation of FBI's Russia probe

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

A grand jury has returned an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a lawyer whose firm represented the 2016 Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI about not representing "any client" when he presented them with allegations about a secret Trump Organization back-channel to a Russian bank.

Why it matters: It's the second criminal charge stemming from special counsel John Durham's review of possible misconduct by the intelligence community and prosecutors who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign's ties to Russia.

Federal judge blocks Biden administration's use of Title 42 policy

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a public health order that fast-tracked deportations of migrant families at the southern border.

Why it matters: President Biden has faced significant backlash for retaining the Trump-era policy, which was implemented as a COVID containment measure. The expulsions deny adult migrants and families the chance for asylum.

2 hours ago - World

Blinken, Austin call out China at event on Australia security pact

Blinken and Austin. Photo: Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin condemned China's "aggressive" and "destabilizing" behavior at a press conference Thursday, as they inaugurated a major new trilateral security partnership with Australia and the U.K.

Why it matters: China was not explicitly mentioned in President Biden's announcement of the AUKUS alliance, through which the U.S. and the U.K. will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines as part of a broader effort to ensure "peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific."