Mar 1, 2023

Vice President Harris Delivers Remarks on Expanding Affordable High-Speed Internet Nationwide Transcript

Vice President Harris Delivers Remarks on Expanding Affordable High-Speed Internet Nationwide Transcript
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Vice President Harris delivers remarks highlighting the progress on the Administration’s efforts to expand affordable high-speed internet nationwide. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Please, welcome United States Congressman James Clyburn.

James Clyburn (00:17):

Thank you. Thank you very, very much. And thank you, President Artis. President, thank you so much for having us on this campus. And First Gentleman, thank you so much. Demi Dale, where is he? Thank you very, very much for your leadership and to all of the Benedict College students here for welcoming us to this campus. And to Mayor Rickenmann, thank you for the leadership you’ve given to this great city and for joining us on this occasion. And, of course, thank you to Vice President Harris for gracing us.

(01:12)
I have been working with her for sometimes now making sure that we have our shared vision of making high-speed internet, both accessible and affordable for every South Carolinian. Earlier this month, the South Carolina Broadband Office announced that it would be funding $130 million in projects to expand high-speed internet across our state.

(01:52)
One of the grant recipients represented here today by Chad Lowder. I have not seen Chad. Chad is the CEO of Tri-County Electric Cooperative . Thank you so much for being here and thank you so much for the work we’ve been doing together for the last five or six years.

(02:18)
Chad and the Tri-County Electric Cooperative have been working tirelessly and investing considerably to expand affordable high speed internet to everyone in their communities. And with the help of this grant, they will be able to do even more. And as one of his customers, I want to make sure that it is high speed and dependable. So thank you very much Chad Lowder.

(02:57)
This one of the $30-million investment represents the first portion of funding made available by the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure law both signed into law in 2021 by President Joe Biden. Thanks to these bills, the state finally has the funding it needs to serve every unserved household with affordable high speed internet in the next five years. We will connect every home and every business in the next five years that we are doing because of these efforts that we are celebrating today.

(03:57)
Now, taking with programs like the Bipartisan Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, I want to emphasize that, Bipartisan Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program, which is awarding a $2.8 million grant to Benedict so that they can facilitate digital adoption and so that Demi can be happy sitting in his office or his room once again.

(04:40)
And make no mistake, affordable high-speed internet access does change the lives of everyone it touches. It empowers telehealth patients who work with providers like Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center and Plexus Health to receive high quality healthcare in the comfort of their own homes.

(05:08)
Dr. Stewart Barre, Dr. Barre, thank you for being here. And my longtime friend, Lathran Woodard, thank you for being here from the South Carolina Primary Healthcare Association for very much a part of this effort. They have shared with us stories of their work with the patients that demonstrate that one’s zip code need not defined whether a South Carolinian receive first-rate care. In fact, one of their patients was to be with us today. But she took ill and could not be here.

(05:54)
But her story is one that I and my children and grandchildren were here are very familiar with. This lady, Anita Roberts, was diabetic. And the diabetes has taken a lot of issues that she is caused to have to deal with, such as with my late wife who lost a 30-year battle to diabetes. Before she lost that battle, she had a heart attack, a stroke, a back operation, and total kidney failure.

(06:45)
Her dad was a double amputee before he passed away. But when she passed away, she still had all of her limbs. Why? Because she had access to the internet and could stay in touch with her doctors and she was able to have a good quality of life. Anita Roberts is a enjoying that same today. This should be available for every South Carolinian, every American, irrespective of what zip code they may live in.

(07:25)
High-speed internet also enables students here at Benedict and at Carver-Lyon Elementary. Carver-Lyon Elementary, those students were here. Some of those students were here today get a chance to interact, not just meet, but interact with the Vice President of the United States of America. And thank you Carver-Lyon for allowing a little interruption in their classroom work today so they could come here and get some real hands-on experience.

(08:06)
Now, high-speed internet is one thing. Affordable and meaningful adoption is another. That’s right. I got a amen. It’s Mike Sheely, the state’s Digital Equity Director said last week, “Without affordability and meaningful use, the infrastructure we are building is just wires in the ground.”

(08:41)
That is why our efforts with the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are so historic because for the first time, it couples investments in hard infrastructure with investments to lower the cost of internet service and to facilitate digital equity. I am so pleased that we’re here today to share this effort with so many. For example, over 300,000 South Carolinians currently benefit from the Bipartisan Law, the Connectivity Program, which provides a $30 monthly discount on a qualified family’s internet bills. And if you are a student, a Carver-Lyon Elementary, or if you are receiving a Pell Grant, your household automatically qualifies for this benefit.

(10:01)
Another example is American Rescue Plan’s creation of the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which has provided critical funding for mobile hotspot deployment to ensure students are able to do their homework from the comfort of their homes rather than the parking lot of restaurants or libraries.

(10:27)
South Carolina has received over $54 million from this program since the start of the pandemic. Today is just the latest announcement of our progress. And there’s plenty more to come. Thanks to the historic initiatives that have been enacted in the last two years. So I want to once again thank the vice president for being here today. And it is my honor, I know the voice of God’s going to introduce her. I want to say to Dr. Monica Adams, the principal of Carver-Lyon School, how much we appreciate her innovative leadership.

Speaker 1 (11:31):

Please, welcome Carver-Lyon Elementary School principal, Monica Adams.

Monica Adams (11:46):

Good afternoon. The week of March 15th, 2020 will forever be etched in my mind. Schools were closed in South Carolina per the governor’s orders due to the high number of COVID cases in the state. What I thought was a closure that would only last for two weeks, actually was a closure that lasted for the remainder of the year.

(12:07)
Leading the school during a pandemic as a first year principal was something I never imagined. However, the myth is true. Educators are superheroes. So we put on our mask and cake and did what was necessary to ensure that learner did not stop. Step one of the continuation of learning was to ensure that our students had work to complete while they were out. Step two, what’s the distribution of laptops and federally funded hotspots that allowed all students access to the internet? This distribution was crucial for virtual learning.

(12:44)
Teaching virtually during a pandemic was a learning curve for many of my teachers, and it was eye-opening for my parents as many parents indicated that they were amazed by the work that my teachers did. However, this work could not be possible without the use of devices and access to the internet.

(13:04)
Due to the accessibility of laptops and hotspots, our students were able to thrive during a national pandemic. As a community eligibility provision school district, all of our students receive breakfast and lunch free of charge, thus making all of our parents and families eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which takes $30 off of their monthly internet bill.

(13:34)
If we are faced with having to teach virtually in the future, we will be prepared. Not only would devices and internet be available. But with the Affordable Connectivity Program, our families will be able to connect with keeping $30 in their budget. Being able to have access to the world at your fingertips is great, but being able to do so while saving money is even better. At this time, it is an honor and a privilege for me to introduce my sorority sister, Vice President Kamala Harris.

Kamala Harris (14:16):

Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. It is so good to be back in South Carolina. Thank you, Dr. Monica Adams [inaudible 00:14:51] for that introduction and for your work. Your work is just extraordinary. We have been talking about her vision not only for the future of education, but for the future of our country, and that future being captured in these bright young people that she is nurturing and investing in for the sake of all of our benefits.

(15:16)
So I thank you for that introduction. And it is good to be here, Mayor. Where are you, Rickenmann? Thank you for the warm welcome this afternoon. You’ve greeted me on the tarmac. I appreciate that and your leadership here. And to our president of Benedict College, Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, it is good to be with you again and with all these bright young leaders. Thank you for all that you do. And, of course, it is a special honor to be here today with the great assistant leader, Jim Clyburn.

(15:59)
So I don’t need to tell you. But he is a champion not only for the people of this state, but he is a national leader on so many issues, on the issues of poverty and civil rights and voting and, of course, a leader on the issue that brings us here together today. High-speed internet, for years, Assistant Leader Clyburn, has been fighting on this issue to connect families with high-speed internet.

(16:30)
I’m telling you, when I was in the Senate, I was the United States Senator for four years. Almost every conversation I’d have with him was about high-speed internet and the need for folks to step up and join him in his role of leadership. And in particular, of course, his work also was on the house rural broadband task force in the United States Congress. So Assistant Leader Clyburn, I thank you for inspiring and urging us as a nation to capture your vision for the families of America and for all you have done for our administration and our nation. Thank you. Thank you.

(17:15)
So today, I will begin with the simple truth, which you’ve heard spoken on this stage already. In America in the 21st century, the ability to connect to high-speed internet is not a luxury. It is a basic necessity. Every day in communities across our nation, students who have affordable access use the internet to do their homework. Parents use the internet to order groceries. Seniors use the internet to see a doctor without having to leave home. And small business owners use the internet to buy inventory, to manage the payroll, even to run their cash register. The internet is an essential part of everyday modern life.

(18:13)
And yet, more than 24 million American households still do not have internet access, including 137,000 families right here in South Carolina, either because they cannot afford the cost of high-speed internet or because they live in a community, often a rural community where high-speed internet is just not available.

(18:40)
So over the years, many of you know I have spent a lot of time in South Carolina. I have traveled from the upstate to the Midlands, from PD to the low country. And I’ve met with folks in rural communities like St. George and Darlington and Hemingway. And I’ve heard so many stories about what it means when folks don’t have internet.

(19:04)
Students who have to sit in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant just to be able to submit their homework on public Wi-Fi. Parents who cannot take on good-paying remote work jobs because their internet is just too slow. Seniors who have to take their telemedicine visit in the corner of a public library because they don’t have a connection in the privacy of their own home. Let us be clear. In America, in the 21st century, every person, no matter where they live, and no matter how much they earn, should have high-speed internet. It is simply a necessity.

(20:01)
So that is why building on the accessible affordable internet for all act written by Assistant Leader Clyburn and guided by his incredible vision, our administration invested an historic $65 billion through the bipartisan infrastructure law to connect every household in America with affordable and accessible high-speed internet. Now, for emphasis, affordable and accessible, both because one doesn’t work without the other.

(20:46)
And so today, we have begun work to build infrastructure in more than 300 communities to construct thousands of miles of fiber optic lines that deliver high-speed internet. Places where I’ve been like Orangeburg and Chester, places where we have connected thousands of farms and churches and schools and small businesses with high-speed internet for the very first time. And the majority of those 300 communities are rural.

(21:20)
Now, think about it. In addition to all the benefit that comes from that, all of this work also creates jobs, good-paying jobs, jobs for electric workers who installed the fiber optic cables, jobs for technicians who will repair and replace those lines for years to come which brings me then to the affordability issue. As Mr. Clyburn mentioned just a few minutes ago when we took office, we created something called the Affordable Connectivity Program or the ACP.

(21:59)
Every month, this program gives more than 16 million working families a $30 discount on their internet bill. 800,000 households in South Carolina are eligible. And because we worked with internet service providers to make sure they offer plans for $30 or less per month with a $30 discount, a majority of these households can access internet for $0 a month.

(22:33)
That means, every month, families across our nation have more money in their pocket to pay for groceries and school supplies and home repairs. And nationally, every month, this program saves Americans more than half a billion dollars. Think about that.

(22:58)
Through this family, we also through this program realized and this family of networks of folks who are working on it realized, “Okay. So that’s good. So we’re going to now check off the affordability issue and the access issue. But how am I going to get on the internet?” Right? And so that’s where we designed into the program, a one-time discount of up to $100 for families to purchase a laptop or a desktop computer or a tablet, because obviously an internet connection is not much good if you don’t have the technology to get online.

(23:41)
So I want to just now do a public service announcement. And I need all the leaders here to help me to check if you qualify for the ACP, look at your neighbor. To check If you qualify, go to getinternet.gov. To check if you qualify, go to internet.gov. As part of this work, we are also investing to connect our nation’s HBCUs. So I say that as a proud graduate of an HBCU. Yes. So I know firsthand, our HBCUs are centers of academic excellence, academic excellence, HBCU students are leaders, yay, in their communities, in our nation, in and around the world as our students of all minority serving colleges and universities.

(24:45)
So let’s make sure then that these leaders, these young leaders, can maximize their education. So today, we are investing more than $175 million to expand high-speed internet access and affordability at 61 HBCUs and minority serving institutions because we have to be intentional. We have to be intentional. And many of those that we have focused on currently do not have reliable access to high-speed internet on campus. So for South Carolina as an example, we are investing nearly $3 million in Claflin University and $3 million in Benedict College. And this means that more students will be able to use the internet for their everyday needs. Think about it like accessing telehealth appointments, including for mental healthcare-

Audience (25:56):

That’s right [inaudible 00:25:57]

Kamala Harris (25:56):

… because here’s the benefit. I was talking to some of the young leaders before we came out. Here’s the benefit. On the issue of mental healthcare, let’s be clear. When we talk about healthcare, healthcare doesn’t just start from the neck down. And so, let’s acknowledge that we need to make sure everyone has access to the total healthcare they need. But let’s also acknowledge that some people don’t necessarily want to be seen walking into the therapist’s office.

(26:29)
But what does telehealth for Medicare mean. For medical care, that’s mental health care, it means in the privacy of your dorm room or your home or even maybe your car, you can talk with somebody that gives you the help that you need. Think about all that access and affordability will open up in terms of truly giving people the ability and the opportunity to have the help they need. And because of the investments that we’re talking about today, the schools that I mentioned and so many others, will also be able to expand their laptop loan program and update and upgrade campus Wi-Fi so that here at Benedict, when students are waiting for the COMET bus, they can open up their laptop and keep studying for their chemistry midterm.

(27:26)
And because of this investment, this school will be able to also create a community computer lab so that our youngest students, including those at Carver-Lyon Elementary, where Dr. Adams works, will be able to have access and get online too.

(27:44)
So South Carolina, for so many people of every generation, these investments will be transformative because we know when we connect folks 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, and to see a doctor.

(28:11)
We give people the power to build for our collective benefit, healthier, happier, and more prosperous lives for themselves and for the people they love. Together, this will help make our country a place where all people, no matter where they live, can thrive. So thank you all again for your leadership, for your work, and for everything you do. May God bless you and may God bless America. Thank you all.

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