Weekly Democratic Address
May 2, 2020
Hello, this is Congressman Jim Clyburn. I proudly represent the 6th Congressional District of South Carolina. I also serve as the House Majority Whip, as Chair of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 and as Chair of the House Democratic Rural Broadband Task Force.
This week, members of our task force and the Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone unveiled our plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the digital divide that exists in our great country.
Families that lack accessible, affordable high-speed internet are unable to work from home, learn remotely and consult with medical professionals via telemedicine. These are all critical components to our ability to be safe, healthy and productive during this crisis.
I am reminded of a book, “The Next Greatest Thing”, which chronicled our country’s rural electrification efforts in the 20th century. The title of the book came from comments made by a farmer speaking to a gathering in a small rural Tennessee church in the 1940s. He proclaimed, “Brothers and sisters: I want to tell you this. The greatest thing on Earth is to have the love of God in your heart. And the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.”
Just as the Great Depression made clear to many that electricity was the “next greatest thing” in the 20th century, the coronavirus pandemic is making clear to all that broadband is the “next greatest thing” for many in the 21st century.
Our announcement this week of the House Democrats’ plan to connect all Americans to affordable broadband internet is an updated and expanded version of the broadband provisions of our framework for Moving America Forward. It’s the product of significant collaboration between the Rural Broadband Task Force, the Energy and Commerce Committee and many Members of the House Democratic Caucus.
Democrats welcome recent reports that Republicans support the idea of including broadband investment in upcoming coronavirus response legislation, and the President expressed the need for affordable universal broadband when I discussed it with him in an infrastructure meeting last year.
The plan we rolled out this week will build on those discussions to accomplish the goal of delivering accessible, affordable broadband to all Americans and provide more choices to fight high prices. We call for investing $80 billion to deploy a secure and resilient broadband infrastructure to expand access for communities nationwide, connecting unserved and underserved rural, suburban and urban areas across the country, while prioritizing persistent poverty communities.
Our plan also invests $5 billion for low-interest financing of broadband deployment through a new program that would allow eligible entities to apply for secured loans, lines of credit or loan guarantees to finance broadband infrastructure. These funds will be allocated over five years to achieve our goal of universal access to affordable broadband, so there is no time to waste getting started. We look forward to working in a bipartisan way to enact this plan and ensure that the next ‘next greatest thing’ will be a reality for all Americans.
Thank you for listening and for your ongoing efforts to stay safe and healthy during these extraordinary times.