One Year of COVID, Courage, and Compassion: How Broadband Held Us Together

Two young women using a laptop at home.

On March 13, 2020, the federal government declared a national emergency and much of the country went into lockdown. Schools and borders closed, stores and offices were shuttered, and people everywhere scrambled to transition quickly to a new and unknown world.

Throughout this supremely challenging time, broadband internet has brought us together, allowing us to adapt and innovate while opening channels of communication that have kept families, friendships, health services, and the economy going – in spite of the quarantines and closures. On the one-year anniversary of this pivotal date, let’s take a look back at four instances of COVID-induced change that transformed the pandemic into a positive.

Curbside Delivery Keeps the Produce Flowing

In May, we reported on the story of Keany Produce, a beltway-area company that, when its hotel and restaurant clients closed, made a quick shift from a business-to-business to a business-to-customer model. Thanks to alliances with local schools, churches, and YMCAs, along with a strong broadband infrastructure, Keany was able to transition to a system of online payments and curbside delivery, saving jobs and helping customers who wanted to avoid going to stores. The initiative was so successful that Keany plans on continuing the curbside project, even as hotels and restaurants open back up.

Feeling All the Feels With the UCONN Chorus

In June, we interviewed Dr. Jamie Spillane, director of choral studies at the University of Connecticut (UCONN). When the pandemic cancelled in-person classes, Spillane was faced with the challenge of maintaining, from afar, his two ensembles: the smaller Chamber Singers and the larger Concert Choir, consisting of 105 students. With students spread across the country, Spillane managed to keep his students learning and the sense of community strong. This feat was managed entirely online, with 99% students experiencing no problems logging in and streaming video. In fact, “managing a hundred students on the video call was not bad at all.” How did it all work? Just ask legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor, who shared the Chamber Singers’ all-digital arrangement of his song “Lonesome Road” on his Twitter feed, adding that it will have you “feeling all the feels.”

A Marketing Agency Discovers the Benefits of Virtual Collaboration

Due to its long-distance project work, the Denver-based, 100% woman-owned agency S&D Marketing | Advertising was already highly invested in the internet. But the pandemic tested the company’s reliance on broadband in a new way: not only to communicate with clients, but also to collaborate with each other as employees dispersed to home offices. When we talked to president Lorie Sadler in July, she described how, due to the pandemic, the agency has been “layering on more apps and tech as we go, like a lasagna,” a tasty mix of tech that includes Microsoft Teams as a digital workplace, Slack as a communications platform, Workamajig for project management, and the Adobe Suite for project and other work. Happily, the ability to collaborate in real time has made S&D’s internal workflows more hands-on and efficient, allowing the team to work at a faster pace. Our entire presence is through the internet,” says Sadler. “If we lose that connection, it would cripple us. The internet is our highway.”

A North Carolina Family Rediscovers the Virtues of Togetherness

With their youngest daughter settling in as a college freshman, the Wilhelms of North Carolina were just getting used to their empty nest when the pandemic brought both of their girls back home. Suddenly, their quiet home became an active co-working space, with mother Allison in the office, working as the marketing director for a trucking company, and the rest of the family battling it out for the kitchen table, the porch, and even the garage. Thanks to strong and open communication, the family worked out a schedule that allowed everyone to work, study, and support each other without interruptions – and their reliable broadband service was more than up to the challenge of a quadrupling of use. Meanwhile, the Wilhelms are enjoying the unexpected joy of renewed family time before their daughters head out into the world again.

Lemons, Meet Lemonade

The pandemic has strained families, businesses, healthcare systems, and schools – but some points of light have also sprung from the transitions required by COVID. From innovations in business to the creation of art, from new ways to relate to new ways to collaborate, many of us have managed to harness our broadband connection to make lemonade from the lemons of crisis. And as we look forward to a post-pandemic world, many of these transformations – virtual offices, flexible work schedules, a renewed appreciation of family time – are very likely to remain with us. To find out how you can get involved in creating the necessary digital infrastructure to make these positive changes permanent, click here.