TR Daily In Speech to Congress, Biden Says VP Harris to Lead Broadband Effort
Thursday, April 29, 2021

In Speech to Congress, Biden Says VP Harris to Lead Broadband Effort

In an address to Congress yesterday evening, President Joe Biden included calls for deploying broadband deployment, spurring new technologies, and bolstering cybersecurity as part of a broad plan for public investments to "build back better," and asked Vice President Harris to lead the high-speed Internet effort.

The president said that his recent $2 trillion American Jobs Plan proposal — which includes $100 billion for broadband deployment — would be "a once-in-a-generation investment in America itself. This is the largest jobs plan since World War II."

"It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed internet, including 35% of rural Americans who still don’t have it," he continued, adding, "This is going to help our kids and our businesses succeed in the 21st-century economy. And I am asking the Vice President to lead this effort, if she would —"

The vice president said, "of course," according to a White House transcript of the event. The president added that he was asking her "because I know it will get done."

President Biden said that "all the investments in the American Jobs Plan will be guided by one principle: Buy American," adding that this requirement would "not violate any trade agreement. It's been the law since the '30s."

He said that nearly 90% of the infrastructure jobs that would be created by the American Jobs Plan do not require a college degree and called for Congress "to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – the PRO Act — and send it to my desk so we can support the right to unionize."

He said that "the American Jobs Plan will be the biggest increase in nondefense research and development on record. … Decades ago, we used to invest 2% percent of our gross domestic product … in research and development." However, he added today less than 1% of the GDP is invested in R&D. "China and other countries are closing in fast. We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy."

In discussing a proposal to "increase Pell Grants and investment in historically Black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges, and minority-serving institutions," the president said, They don’t have the endowments, but their students are just as capable of learning about cybersecurity, just as capable of learning about metallurgy — all the things that are going on that provide those jobs of the future."

In another nod to the need for cybersecurity, he said, "[W]e aren’t going to go it alone. We're going to do it by leading with our allies. No one nation can deal with all the crises of our time — from terrorism, to nuclear proliferation, mass migration, cybersecurity, climate change, as well as what we're experiencing now with pandemics."

In the Republican response, Sen. Tim Scott (R., S.C.) focused mainly on arguing that President Biden has not lived up to pledges to unite the country. However, he did say that "Republicans support everything you think of when you think of ‘infrastructure.’ Roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, high-speed broadband — we’re all in!"

In a statement regarding the president’s speech, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said, "The bold investments of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan will Build Back Better by putting children, women, workers and families first and by ensuring that every person in every zip code has the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century. The Democratic Congress looks forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to enact this historic vision for lower health care costs, for bigger paychecks, for cleaner government, For The People."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said, "I look forward to working with my House Democratic colleagues to advance this agenda of justice, equality, security, and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead as we work to defeat this pandemic and build the better future Americans deserve."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said that President Biden "plans to ‘Build Back Better’ by growing the government, raising taxes on American families and investments, destroying jobs, and saddling future generations with a massive debt — an agenda that will inevitably crush economic opportunity."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said, "President Biden laid out a comprehensive, thoughtful vision tonight that provides a pathway to success for working people and America. The president’s plan will help restore the American optimism that has been shaken for the last four years. Now the Congress must act, and Democrats will do all we can to make President Biden’s vision a reality."

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.) said that the president is "positioning our nation to not only compete on the global stage but to lead the pack when it comes to acting on the climate crisis and modernizing our infrastructure. His plans align with both the Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats’ LIFT America Act and CLEAN Future Act, which will rebuild our economy, create millions of new good-paying American jobs, and combat the climate crisis by reducing carbon pollution and moving us towards a clean energy future."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D., Miss.), said, "Whether it is ending coronavirus pandemic, fixing our broken immigration system, confronting Russia on cyber-attacks, or addressing the domestic terrorism threat, there is much work to do. I stand ready to work with the Administration and my colleagues on both sides to put politics aside and work on actual solutions to get the country back on track. The American people expect nothing less."

House Homeland Security Committee ranking member John Katko (R., N.Y.) said he was "disappointed by President Biden’s failure to fully address the severity of the threats currently facing our homeland in his address to Congress."

However, he added, "I was encouraged to hear President Biden make multiple references to the importance of protecting the cybersecurity resilience of the nation. As the pre-eminent national security threat of our time, cybersecurity is a team sport and we must continue work hand and glove with our industry partners, as a strong public-private partnership is the only way we will take our cyber adversaries head on."

Stakeholders on telecom and tech issues were generally supportive of the goals laid out by the president in those areas.

National Association of Counties (NACo) Executive Director Matthew Chase said, "With our eyes on ending the pandemic, we are also focused on other pressing challenges, including building, maintaining and upgrading major infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, public transportation, water and sewage, and broadband. We will continue to work with our federal partners to preserve local decision-making, streamline federal regulations and secure direct fiscally responsible investments in infrastructure."

Incompas Chief Executive Officer Chip Pickering said, "Broadband competition is the key to connecting all Americans to the internet, lowering prices and increasing speeds that our small businesses desperately need to compete. It was encouraging to see President Biden reach out to Republicans tonight, seeking a bi-partisan compromise on his infrastructure plan that will make America stronger and better prepared for the future."

Mr. Pickering added, "On broadband infrastructure Congress faces a choice: go big and bold or get stuck with old and slow. Other nations have set gigabit speed goals and are beating America on 5G deployment. Now is the time to invest in a better broadband future and demand that robust competition drive deployment and lower prices for all Americans living in urban, suburban and rural communities."

In a statement, the Wireless Infrastructure Providers Association said that it "looks forward to working with Vice President Kamala Harris and all other stakeholders as Congress works out the details of its $100 billion broadband deployment and adoption package. All Americans should have broadband no matter where they live or their ability to afford it. Congress’ proposal promises to eradicate the digital divide once and for all."

It added, "Right now, WISPA serves nearly 7 million Americans in the toughest to reach parts of our country — in the so-called digital divide. By 2025, research projects that nearly 13 million Americans will receive broadband from WISPs. This is being achieved through licensed, licensed-by-rule and unlicensed spectrum, and fiber, too. We know spectrum is the very infrastructure that ensures those in the divide can be served, and we are proud to be part of the solution to getting all Americans online.

"We encourage the Vice President to include all technologies and business models in the final package, as well as balance the desire for highspeed delivery of broadband with the need to provide access to those who have none. Government-supported overbuilding of networks already providing broadband solves nothing, especially for those who have nothing," WISPA continued.

Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) President and CEO Jason Oxman said, "President Biden crucially highlighted the importance of investments in digital infrastructure, R&D, and a skilled and diverse workforce for America’s continued leadership and innovation. This includes shared priorities like the expansion of broadband in all American communities and the support of critical research, development, and manufacturing for semiconductors, advanced batteries, biotechnologies, artificial intelligence, and other innovations to help advance U.S. technological leadership and address challenges like climate change.

"Moreover, the American Family Plan’s investments in expanding affordability, educational pathways, and programs at community colleges, HBCUs, and Minority Serving Institutions will be key to preparing a new generation of diverse, skilled tech workers for opportunities now and in the future. We also appreciate President Biden’s commitment to expanding education opportunities for DREAMers through Pell Grants. The tech industry remains committed to working with President Biden and the U.S. Congress to ensure that efforts to facilitate U.S. economic growth and competitiveness are advanced," Mr. Oxman added.

Connected Nation Chairman and CEO Thomas Ferree said, "We were heartened to hear President Biden reiterate his commitment to seeking $100 billion in his infrastructure plan to ensure that every American has access to robust broadband, including the 35% of rural America that has no access at all. Not only will such an investment create jobs and keep America competitive globally; it will also ensure that every American, regardless of where they live, can pursue an education, receive healthcare, and participate in the economy. Thankfully, this is a true bipartisan issue where common ground can be found—and we’re confident that Republicans and Democrats will come together to make this investment a reality and close the Digital Divide once and for all. We look forward to working with Vice President Harris in her new leadership role on this issue, along with members of Congress, to not only secure this funding but ensure that its impact is maximized. Our country’s future depends on it." —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress BroadbandDeployment WirelessDeployment Cybersecurity

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