Remarks By Vice President Harris On The Affordable Connectivity Program
Carole Hoefener Center
Charlotte, North Carolina
1:32 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right! Can we hear it for Ms. Tiffany? (Applause.)
Well, good afternoon, Charlotte. It’s so good to be back. Good afternoon. You know, Ms. Tiffany and I were talking in the back, and I said, you know, “The President” — who I’m going to speak of in a moment — “The President — I talked to him this morning. I told him I was on my way here. And he said, ‘Tell everybody hello.’” And he knew why I was here, which is to talk about what we are doing to connect folks to high-speed Internet.
And the work that we’re going in Washington, D.C., the work that we are doing in terms of the policy work, it’s not real until it hits the streets. It’s not real until real people have the ability to take advantage of what we hope will help them and uplift their lives.
And the connectivity, if you will, between what we do in Washington, D.C., and it hitting the streets of Charlotte are people like Ms. Tiffany. So she makes all the difference. So, again, can we please applaud her? (Applause.) Please applaud her.
And before I begin, I do — wanted to speak about our incredible President, Joe Biden. This morning, he and I spoke by phone. He is in good spirits. He is feeling well. He is doing well. He is fully vaccinated and twice boosted. And — of course, he is, and as everyone we — who would encourage, who was eligible, would do the same. And he is working from the White House Residence.
And when we spoke, he was very pleased, as I said, that we were all here together today talking about the work our administration is doing on behalf of parents and working families and all who deserve to be seen and heard.
So, with that, it is good to be with everyone today. The great Governor Roy Cooper. Where is Roy? He was here earlier. He’s been with me all at — he’s been with me all morning and met me on the tarmac.
And I have to tell you, Roy Cooper is extraordinary, because there’s so much about we are doing that is about getting these resources to folks. But we cannot do it if there’s not a governor in place who takes seriously the importance of the partnership to make sure that they don’t let anything get in the way of the services and resources getting to the people of the states. So I really do thank Governor Roy Cooper for all that he has done. And if we’d applaud him, please. (Applause.)
And Governor Cooper and I were most recently together at the White House highlighting the jobs that have been created under his leadership here in North Carolina through the American Rescue Plan. So I thank him, of course, for all the action he has taken get folks online.
I also want to recognize the leaders of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for your work advancing our administration’s efforts to ensure Internet for all. And thank you to all of the leaders who are here today, including, of course, the advocates and the organizers who have fought so long to connect our communities.
So I will begin with a simple and obvious truth: In the 21st century, high-speed Internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity. (Applause.) It’s as basic as is what we have come to accept over generations: how electricity is a necessity. Same point.
Students use the Internet for so many reasons that are in pursuit of their education, including to attend virtual classes. Workers use the Internet to find jobs and receive training. Seniors use the Internet to see a doctor without leaving their home.
For so many of us, the Internet is an essential part of our daily lives. And yet, more than 30 million people in our country still do not have access to high-speed Internet. Think about that. It’s a lot of folks. And millions more cannot afford the cost of a high-speed plan.
Every person in our nation, no matter how much they earn, should be able to afford a high-speed Internet plan.
So last year, our administration invested $65 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help connect every household in our country with affordable high-speed Internet and to lower monthly Internet bills for tens of Americans through an initiative that we’re here to talk about today called the Affordable Connectivity Program.
So this program provides working families with up to $30 a month off of their Internet bill or $75 a month for those living on Tribal lands. And it also gives families a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, a desktop computer, or a tablet — because an Internet connection is not much good if you don’t have a way to get online, if you don’t actually have the technology that allows you to take advantage of the service.
So we have been working with Internet service providers to make sure they offer plans for $30 or less a month, which means the vast majority of households eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program can receive high-speed Internet without paying a dime.
So, if you are eligible, or even think you might be eligible — I’m going to give you a website; everybody get ready. Write it on you smartphone or pull out a pen and paper. Please visit — the website is GetInternet.gov. GetInternet.gov. And when you log on there, you can check to see if you qualify, you can find a plan, and you can sign up.
The Affordable Connectivity Program has already done so much good. Today, about 13 million people are enrolled. And these are students who can now study at their kitchen table instead of in the parking lot of a local fast-food restaurant, which is what so many of our students did, especially during the height of the pandemic — because, you see, they would take advantage of the Internet accessibility from the fast-food restaurant by sitting in the parking lot.
Think about it: The people who will benefit include parents who used to rely on their cell phone data plan to connect the whole family, which can be incredibly expensive. And now, those families can stream and search and study on Wi-Fi for free. This includes women who need access to healthcare.
Because as many of you know, this is an issue that has been a priority of mine for a long time — the issue of maternal health. And our nation is facing a maternal mortality crisis.
In fact, Black women are three times as likely to die in our country from pregnancy-related causes. Native American women are more than twice as likely to die. Rural women — women who live in rural America — are one and a half times more likely to die.
And think about it: For many of the women who live in rural communities, they also live in maternal care deserts, which means they lack access to health providers and facilities.
But with high-speed Internet connection and through telehealth, these women can access lifesaving maternal care.
Among the other 13 million people who have benefited from our program, there are also folks who are the entrepreneurs in our communities; folks who always wanted to start a business online and work from home but could never afford Internet access to do so until now.
Here is what it comes down to: We created this program because we know when we connect folks with high-speed Internet, it is also a connection to opportunity — the opportunity to live a healthier, happier, and more prosperous life and, importantly, more affordable lives.
Every month, the Affordable Connectivity Program saves working families over a quarter billion dollars, and it is important for so many reasons, incler- — including our larger fight to make sure that we do everything — and the President and I feel very strongly about this — to bring down the costs for lower — and lower the costs for working families.
So, we expanded the Child Tax Credit, which lifted millions of children out of poverty last year. And we passed a tax cut
to give parents up to $8,000 for childcare so they will have more room in their pockets to buy food and medication and school supplies for their children. And we are fighting to pass legislation to lower the price of prescription drugs, and healthcare, and childcare, and so much more.
Today we are in Charlotte because we need your help. We know that when we hold events like this, more people sign up. But it takes the support of leaders like you in this room to sustain that momentum.
So, we need your help, and that’s why I’m here to ask you, like Ms. Tiffany — we’re going to look at her as a role model for this — to help us spread the word. Think about it. Talk to everybody who comes over for Sunday dinner, at Little League games, at work, at school, in your neighborhood. Talk with folks about what is available to them that they may not otherwise know but can be a huge help for everything that is about their daily lives and obligations.
And we need community and faith-based organizations to help people fill out their applications. There is an application. It’s not too detailed. It’s not too complicated. But folks might need an extra hand, so please offer to help them fill out the application as well.
And we need state and local governments to drive enrollment every way they know how. I know that Governor Cooper is already hard at work on this front. The partnership between the leaders here today is essential.
So, again, I am here to ask you to help spread the word to let people know what is available to them. And like Tiffany’s story, when we see people take advantage of it, we see so much good that is not only about that individual but truly is about their family and the community as a whole.
So thank you, all of you, for all that you have done to help connect the people of our nation with a better future. And I look forward to seeing you all again soon.
God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:44 P.M. EDT