The COVID-19 pandemic has affected communities around the world. Whether through unemployment, changes to the business landscape or the evolving needs of people everywhere, people and communities have felt – and will continue to feel – the effects of the pandemic.
The pandemic has also revealed how critical technology is in supporting these new needs – in particular internet connectivity. Connectivity has continued to sustain many industries, businesses and jobs and the functionalities of the “new normal,” such as telehealth and teletherapy, distance learning, remote work environments and at-home entertainment options. Locally, Comcast Business has helped Pennsylvania businesses like Branch Creative Group, Indian Lake Marina and City Church of New Castle navigate challenges since March with Business Internet, WiFi Pro, VoiceEdge and Business TV solutions to address these new connectivity needs.
Many communities continue to look for solutions to drive recovery as the coronavirus and its effects are unlikely to go away any time soon. Whether through connecting businesses and people, helping businesses stay flexible and adaptable, or building a foundation for future job growth, internet access is playing a key role in helping to drive recovery among local communities.
- Connecting businesses and people.
Even prior to the pandemic, internet access has connected businesses, customers and employees, and individuals. Now, we’re seeing internet be the driving force in forging these connections, whether in work or our personal lives.
For most businesses an internet presence has replaced or supplemented the main storefront. Many retail shops that could not open their doors added inventory and online purchase options to websites at the onset of the pandemic. Meanwhile, restaurants and bars moved to takeout and delivery models when dining rooms closed, and some even turned to selling goods and wholesale supplies online for consumers to purchase. Walnut Grill, with locations in Bridgeville, Robinson, Fox Chapel, Wexford, Bethel Park and Washington have seen carry-out and curbside orders sustain them through the pandemic. Comcast Business internet, WiFi, voice and TV solutions provide an enhanced dining and online and phone ordering experience for its guests and team members.
It’s likely that many of these models will continue as people have become more accustomed to these changes. While plenty of businesses will bring employees back to physical sites once it’s safe to do so, others may continue to allow all or partial remote work opportunities. And even once store doors can remain open again, retail businesses that have set up online inventory and buying options may keep these available to customers.
People have also found a new appreciation for the way the internet can keep us together while we’re apart. Now, many people are comfortable substituting video chats for in-person visits. Even after the pandemic subsides, it’s likely that relatives and friends who can’t physically be together will rely on platforms like Zoom and Houseparty to fill the void.
With internet access playing a bigger role in fostering these connections across all aspects of our lives, businesses must ensure they have reliable network infrastructure to meet their customers and employees where they are now.
- Helping businesses stay flexible and adaptable.
Even before the pandemic, connecting to customers entailed more than just face-to-face or in-store buying experiences. But now, digital customer experiences are no longer a nice-to-have; they’re a necessity for all industries. Even with more consumers shopping online, they still demand high-quality service and an experience that mirrors what they would expect within a physical storefront. The same goes for restaurant guests who are opting for delivery or curbside pick-up rather than dining in. Although digital has replaced most interactions consumers have with businesses, they still expect a great experience.
The ability to deliver this experience requires reliable, high-bandwidth internet that will support in-store connectivity needs. It also requires redundancy in case the power goes out, allowing customers to browse and buy at any time, as well as cybersecurity safeguards so customers know their data is always protected.
- Building a Foundation for Future Job Growth
Finally, reliable internet connectivity can also help drive new economic opportunities, support diverse talent pipelines, and boost small- and large- scale innovation. It also gives existing businesses the opportunity to expand operations or open new locations and supports entrepreneurs as they build their own local presence in a community.
Through network infrastructure that provides the ability to scale as personal and business capacity needs expand, companies and individual innovators are incentivized to expand their businesses and lure new talent to an area, driving continued economic growth and creating jobs. For example, Comcast has invested in its network to help ensure that it can meet customer demands today and tomorrow.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has made a substantial impact on communities across the country. But even so, businesses have demonstrated their resilience and ability to adapt to survive. As communities look ahead and plan for future challenges, they must continue to find creative ways to connect people and businesses, create new economic opportunities and drive job growth. Reliable, high-speed broadband connectivity is the link between achieving all three of these goals.