May 10, 2022
President Biden and Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks on the Affordable Connectivity Program 5/09/22 Transcript
President Biden and Vice President Harris Deliver Remarks on How the Biden-Harris Administration is Lowering the Cost of High-Speed Internet for Millions of American Families and Expanding Access Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on 5/09/22. Read the transcript here.
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Kamala Harris: (00:00)
Good afternoon, everyone. Please have a seat. Good afternoon. President Joe Biden, members of the cabinet, members of Congress, internet service providers, and all of the advocates and organizers who are working every day to connect our communities, thank you all for your leadership. I will begin today with a quick story. Earlier this year I met a young woman named Julisa. Julisa is a high school senior from Pennsylvania. For years she did not have high speed internet at home. Her family, however, found ways to make due without. Then the pandemic hit and Julisa began attending school virtually. She told me she did the best she could. She completed homework assignments on her phone and relied on a spotty mobile hotspot to virtually attend class. But without reliable access to high speed internet Julisa began to fall behind. Her story is the story of so many people.
Kamala Harris: (01:15)
Today, more than 30 million people in our country do not have access to high speed internet, either because they live in communities where high speed internet is not easily available or more often because they cannot afford the cost of a plan. These folks, they’re our seniors who have to take their telemedicine visits in the local library without the privacy that they want and are due. These are parents who cannot afford to work remotely, and small business owners who cannot sell their products online. These are students like Julisa, who are being held back from achieving their incredible and God-given potential. In the 21st century access to the internet is essential for success. Every person in our nation, no matter how much they earn, should be able to afford high speed internet and a high speed internet plan.
Kamala Harris: (02:28)
So that is why we are all here together today. Last year, knowing this was an issue, our administration invested 65 billion to expand access to affordable high speed internet through the bipartisan infrastructure law. As part of this investment, we funded the Affordable Connectivity Program, also known here in DC as ACP. Through this program, if a member of your household receives SNAP benefits, Medicaid, free or reduced price school lunch, or a number of other programs, or if your household makes below a certain income, then you are eligible to receive a discount on your monthly internet bill of $30 a month or $75 a month if you live on tribal lands. Altogether nearly 40% of American households are eligible for this important program. And so far we have helped more than 11 and a half million households lower their monthly bills and have access to affordable high speed internet. Households like Julisa’s.
Kamala Harris: (03:52)
In may of 2020 her family signed up for high speed internet through the ACP, and because of this initiative Julisa could attend class and do her homework without worrying about her internet connection. And she told me the ACP single handedly saved her junior year, and this fall, she will be the first in her family to attend college at her top choice school. Indeed. So the point, of course, is that when we connect people with high speed internet, we connect them with opportunity, the opportunity to get an education, to train for a new career, to build a business, to keep in touch with loved ones who are far away. In short, the opportunity to live healthier, happier, and more prosperous lives. This is what so much of our work as an administration comes down to. Fighting to make sure every person, no matter who they are or where they start, has the opportunity to succeed and thrive. Today we take another step forward in that fight.
Kamala Harris: (05:11)
Earlier this year, our administration called on internet service providers to take action to help folks get internetted and connected, in part by offering more affordable high speed internet plans to their customers. As the president will speak in a moment, the providers joining us today have answered that call. Before you hear from them, it is my great pleasure to introduce a woman who has felt the impact of this program firsthand. A mother who knows the difference that access to high speed internet can make for the young people of our nation. Please welcome Alicia Jones.
Alicia Jones: (06:00)
Good afternoon, everyone. I’m grateful for this opportunity today. Over the course of the last two years, we have all navigated unfamiliar territories and unsettling times. We face much grief and heartache during this COVID 19 pandemic. We were all affected differently. However, from my family, one thing that remained consistent and reliable was our internet service. Through the Emergency Broadband Benefit, and now the Affordable Connectivity Program, the burden of paying for this essential service was lifted. I knew that with all of the other struggles that we faced providing internet for my family was not one of them. I have two children, two boys, 18 and 12 years of age. And through our high speed broadband provider, Comcast, we were able to stay connected with family, receive telehealth healthcare, and go to classes and access other necessary resources.
Alicia Jones: (07:22)
And now that this critical service has been upgraded to even faster speed with the Internet Essentials Plus program, we all now strive to do our best with our next ventures. This is what we consider our game changer. I am currently enrolled in a medical billing and coding program certification through my community college, and now that I can attend my classes virtually knowing that my connection is fast enough to keep me present and actively participating. My oldest son will be entering Delaware State University this fall. Through this internet service, he has already achieved his certification as a Christian mental health mentor because he could have access to these classes in the evenings.
Alicia Jones: (08:26)
This is why we are here today, to discuss the continuation and improvement of quality high speed internet provided through the Affordable Connectivity Program. I would encourage each of you that hears this message today to sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program and change the future of your family just like I did for mine. To discuss more about the Affordable Connectivity Program, it is now my great honor to present to you our very own president of the United States of America, president Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (09:09)
Hello everyone. Welcome to the sunny Rose Garden. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All that needs to be said has already been said, but I’m going to say it again. Look, Alicia, thank you very much for your story, and I want to thank the vice president, vice president Harris for leading this effort in this administration on this issue. And I’m proud to announce today that our administration has brought together Democrats, Republicans, the private sector to lower the high speed internet cost for tens of millions of Americans. But before we get into the details, I want to talk about why this matters. You already know that, actually, from hearing my two colleagues speak before me, but here in the United States of America, how many times have you seen a mom or a dad drive up to a parking lot outside of McDonald’s just so they can get connected to the internet so their kid could do their homework during the pandemic, literally?
Joe Biden: (10:32)
It’s just not right. It’s not who we are. We saw during the pandemic how essential high speed internet really is in allowing seniors to connect with their doctors through telemedicine, as the vice president referenced, when it wasn’t safe to go in person. Allowing students to keep learning back when schools were closed. Allowing millions of workers to do their job remotely. Allowing small businesses to stay afloat on the strength of their online sales. Allowing farmers to use precision agricultural technology to improve their yields. And allowing countless families to stay connected to the people they love, even when they weren’t able to get together. The need for high speed internet is a little bit like it used to be probably what my grandfather talked about the need to have a telephone. It’s pretty consequential and only going to keep growing this need. High speed. Internet is not a luxury any longer. It’s a necessity.
Joe Biden: (11:34)
And that’s why the bipartisan infrastructure law included $65 billion to make sure we expand access to broadband internet in every region of the country, urban, suburban, and rural. Everywhere, everywhere. So every household in America can get connected. Expanding access is only part of the challenge though, as was referenced by the vice president. It was about affordability as well. And today too many families simply can’t afford to get connected, even if there’s access to get connected. So they go without high speed internet. Or they sacrifice other necessities in order to make it work. That’s why in November, when we passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, we also created something called the Affordable Connectivity Program. I refuse to call it the ACP. I am so tired of acronyms in Washington. I can’t stand it. I cannot stand it.
Joe Biden: (12:39)
But I’m going to have to learn, aren’t I? Here’s how it works. If your household income is twice the federal poverty level or less, that’s about $55,000 per year for a family of four, or $27,000 for an individual, or a member of your household is on Medicaid or supplemental security income or a number of other programs, you’re eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program. Nearly 40% of the households in America qualify. And if you qualify, you’re going to get a $30 credit per month toward your internet bill, which most folks will mean they get on for nothing. Look, zero. Let me explain. In the past, 30 bucks a month meant you had to settle for a slow internet service, unless you wanted to pay a heck of a lot more out of pocket. But over the last few months, my administration has worked closely with internet providers, this is the case where big business stepped up, urging them to cut their prices and raised their speeds. I’m trying to get others to do the same thing with inflation, but these guys are the best.
Joe Biden: (13:52)
Look, we secured commitment from 20 providers. Most of them here in the garden today. Going to lower prices for high speed internet for tens of millions of households. So now families who are eligible can select a plan from a participating provider and receive high speed internet at no cost in most cases. These include providers like AT&%. Is ATT here. Thank you, man. AT&T, Comcast. Comcast, where are you? Stand up, man. Let them see you. Frontier, Spectrum, Verizon. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’re really changing people’s lives. You really are. Along with small providers serving rural areas like Jackson Energy Authority in Tennessee, and Ideak in Kansas. Are you guys here? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (14:47)
All told, providers taking part, you’re going to cover about 80% of the United States population, including about half the rural population. Each of them is committed to offering families who use this program at least one high speed plan that’s fully covered. For example, Verizon lowered the price of its high speed service from $40 a month to $30 a month. Spectrum doubled the speed of its $30 a month plan for eligible households. And we made sure that there’d be no hidden fees, no tricks. This is straight stuff. This means fast internet, good download speeds with no data caps and no extra fees for millions of American families. And it’s going to change people’s lives.
Joe Biden: (15:38)
From rural Appalachia to Brooklyn, to the Black Belt, families who have struggled to get internet that they need, even find if they could connect to it, let alone if they could afford it, for schoolwork, telemedicine, starting a business and so much more. And we finally get connected reliably and affordably. And I want to thank the companies who are working with us to deliver this for all families. It’s a big deal. And this is a great example of what we can achieve if the federal government and the private sector work together to solve serious problems. And not only is this great news for family budgets, this also means more jobs, more new small businesses, more connectivity. So many people in so many communities that have been left behind.
Joe Biden: (16:37)
Already more than 11.5 million have signed up and on the program. Thousands more are signing up each day. And you can get started by taking advantage in this new phase today, but we urge there’s about 30 million additional people are eligible for this plan that basically get free internet and good internet. We want each of you, each and every one of you to take advantage of the chance and cut your internet cost. To find out if you’re eligible, you can dial 877-384-2575. Now, if you got that, you’re way ahead of me. 877-3842-575, and for English or Spanish, or if you’re able to get onto the internet, just go to getinternet.gov and you’ll be able to connect as well.
Joe Biden: (17:35)
We’re also working with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as local and national organizations to help get more eligible families enrolled so they can get connected. You got to know how to know, as a friend of mine used to say. This program is a big deal. It’s only one piece of work that we’re doing to try to bring down the cost of high speed internet to every single American. We’re also promoting competition. More than 65 million Americans live in a place with only one high speed internet provider. Research shows that when you live somewhere with limited internet options, you pay five times more on average than families that have more choices. That’s what the lack of competition does. It raises the prices you pay. So we’re working to fix that problem as well.
Joe Biden: (18:25)
For example, my administration is taking steps to put a stop to the exclusive deals that landlords make with internet companies. Because those sweetheart arrangements, millions of Americans who live in apartment buildings, only have one internet option, and if they can stop those exclusive deals, then families will have options to choose a provider that they want. And that means companies will have to compete for their business, which in turn means lower prices. In addition, more than 30 million Americans live in places where the speeds are too slow or where there’s no broadband and there’s no infrastructure at all. That’s especially true in rural communities. And as I said at the start, thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law, we’re delivering high speed internet infrastructure to every part of the country. And I mean that literally, every part of the country. The bottom line is this.
Joe Biden: (19:23)
My top priority is fighting inflation and lowering prices for families and things they need. Today’s announcement is going to give millions of families a little more breathing room to help them pay their bills. We work with Democrats and Republicans and business and nonprofits to make this happen. And we’re going to keep working to fight inflation and lower cost to all American families for a lot of other things as well. But again, I want to thank the businesses that are here today. I want to thank the internet companies or the providers. It really matters. You’re going to change people’s lives. And by the way, one of the things that is… It’s a totally different subject, I’m just going to touch it for a second. There’s an awful lot of growing data that what’s happened because of COVID and other things, the mental health problems are become a serious problem. Feeling left out, feeling you can’t participate, not knowing what to do.
Joe Biden: (20:19)
I know Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General’s going to talk about this in other contexts, but I really think that just knowing that you belong, knowing and feeling that you can get access to what other people get on a regular basis will make a big difference for people. So God bless you all, may God protect you and all the members of Congress who made this happen. I was going to name each one of you and I was told don’t because people who aren’t here wanted to be here, but I think I should name you anyway. Shouldn’t I? No? I don’t know, man.
Joe Biden: (20:53)
Anyway. We’re all in the front row here, Joe, and they’re all doing a hell of a job. I started off, when I had the list. I said, “Give me the…” And I start off, I said, “Sherry Butros.” They said, “Wait, there’s a lot of people aren’t here. Don’t do it.” Anyway. The people are here are John Hickenlooper, Sherry Butros, Dan Kilty, Debbie Dingle, Tom O’Halloran, Eliza Slotkin. Excuse me, Alyssa Slotkin, and representative Sandsbury. But there’s a lot more too. Thank you. It’s going to make a big difference. Thank you, everybody and stick around and sunbathe. Thank you.