Hello 2022! Last year may have started with optimism and ended with disappointment, but there’s confidence that better days lie ahead, and that America will finally get back on track in the new year. From a tech and entertainment standpoint, there’s plenty to be excited for. From expanded broadband access, widespread adoption of Wi-Fi 6, and production of cutting-edge content taking place across the country, our future is both fast and entertaining!
2021 was not a lost year, however. Americans benefited from several big moments that will lay the groundwork for the year – and generations ahead. Let’s take a quick look back at what happened, and how America set itself up for success in the new year.
The Infrastructure Bill
As part of the bipartisan, $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed in November, Congress made a historic investment in broadband. This includes money for states and territories to finance internet access with a focus on unserved and underserved areas, establishes a permanent program to provide credits for broadband service for lower-income families, and helps states tackle the digital divide by making the internet more readily available through Wi-Fi hotspots and digital literacy programs. All of this translates to a major win for the American consumer.
Under supremely challenging circumstances, movie and television production has helped get our economy through COVID. According to a recent report, networks and studios spent $43.9 billion on content in 2020. This investment created over 58,000 direct jobs and an additional 74,000 indirect jobs – an increase of 20,000 over 2007. And in 2021, the industry has bounced back aggressively from the hit it took in 2020. In New York City, for example, studios have been consistently booked and permits for street shooting already hit 75% of 2019 levels by August. “The industry has bounced back and it’s been so resilient,” says Douglas Steiner, chairman of the city’s largest production facility, Steiner Studios.
With over a hundred thousand schools closed at different points throughout the year, distance learning stepped into the educational breach in a big way in 2021. Through programs such as K-12 Bridge to Broadband and the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (made permanent by the infrastructure bill; see above), broadband providers teamed up with school districts, businesses, community activist organizations, and all levels of government to get students connected. And as we look forward, many schools are making distance education a permanent feature of their offering through initiatives such as hybrid learning, remote instructors, and virtual schools.
Just as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was opening up new spectrum bands for internet use in 2021, the internet itself continued to receive an upgrade in the form of Wi-Fi 6. This new technology is faster and also has up to 75% less latency, which is important for keeping uploads, games, and streaming services flowing smoothly. It brings wired and wireless signals closer to “parity,” making your connection just as good without an Ethernet cable as with one.
The face – and faces – of television changed in 2021 with diversity hitting our screens in a myriad of ways. This meant hard-hitting documentaries like Boiling Point on the BET Channel, an exploration of women’s issues on shows such as the legal drama Delilah, the lives and struggles of the LGBTQ+ community on FX’s Pose, the Freeform Network’s Everything’s Gonna Be Okay which highlights the experience of the differently-abled, and the Peacock Network’s Rutherford Falls with its whimsical but pointed look at Native American issues. And in children’s programming, Disney alone gave us Doc McStuffins; Elena of Avalor; Mira, Royal Detective; and Amphibia, featuring African-American, Latina, Indian, and Thai-American protagonists, respectively. And this is just barely scratching the surface of what we’ll see in 2022!
Given all this good news from 2021, let’s get excited for what is ahead. Your voices made a big difference last year, and we’ll need to grow stronger and louder in 2022 to ensure our online and content experiences continue to get better. Take a seat at the table by joining the Beyond community and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Cheers to 2022!