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Remarks at Broadband Event with Vice President Biden, Wattsburg, Pennsylvania

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at Broadband Event with Vice President Biden
Wattsburg, Pennsylvania

Hello everybody. Thank you for coming out.

It’s great to be with all of you, and with Vice President Biden and our Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Finally, I want to acknowledge Larry Strickling, who’s with us today. Larry was recently confirmed as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.

He will be the president's principle telecom and information advisor, and I know his experience will be invaluable in helping the president reach his goal of expanding high-speed Internet access—which is better known as broadband.

You’re probably noticing that we have a pretty big group from President Obama's team today.

That’s because we are here to talk about an issue that is at the very core of the president's agenda: Expanding economic opportunity to every corner of America by creating a nationwide 21st century communications infrastructure.

Imagine a day where every kid in Erie County can take online classes at MIT and access everything Harvard University's library has to offer; your doctors can connect with experts at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center or the Mayo Clinic; and Erie County’s Main Street businesses can advertise and sell their products around the world.

That day has arrived for many in America, but in some rural and urban parts of the country, including communities here in Erie, it’s still a vision unrealized.

But today we take a step closer. Thanks to this broadband initiative—included in President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—we can fund showcase, broadband projects across the country that will catalyze investments that are sorely needed.

Seneca High School is lucky enough to have broadband access—even if all of its students don’t when they return home.

But too many American communities today are stuck with 20th Century information tools that leave them ill-equipped to compete in today’s global economy.

Even though America invented the Internet, 14 other advanced economies now have better broadband access than we do.

Broadband is widely available in many parts of America and virtually nonexistent in others.

That is simply unacceptable.

The new funding that Vice President Biden will be announcing in a few minutes will begin to remedy this problem.

The Department of Commerce is working to make this vision a reality—and we have been charged with administering a key part of the president's broadband expansion initiative.

It will incorporate basic principles of fairness. Under this program, if a telecom company uses grant money to install broadband infrastructure—that infrastructure must be accessible to competing companies who want to bring broadband service to their customers.

Our Broadband Technology Opportunities Program will reach the last frontiers of America’s information landscape.

The investments it makes in inner city neighborhoods and rural communities—will spur innovation and pave the way for private capital to follow.

We will partner with states, cities and organizations across America, to help bridge the technological divide in the places that haven’t had sufficient investment in broadband infrastructure.

And we are working hard to ensure that all may participate, especially those communities that may have been left behind in the past, including minorities, the aged, and low income.

In the short term, we are focused on making sure that these grant dollars get to Main Street where they can help stimulate the economy and put people back to work.

But this initiative will also lay the groundwork for sustainable economic recovery by extending the information superhighway to schools, hospitals, libraries, community and job training centers, public safety offices and homes across America.

Expanding broadband access is critical to improving America’s economic competitiveness in the world. Our best minds should be able to talk to one another, create, and innovate regardless of whether they hail from Silicon Valley or from here in Erie.

The more we connect with one another, the stronger we will all be. And I am confident the Commerce Department's broadband program, along with President Obama’s other broadband expansion initiatives, will help us achieve that goal.

Thank you.