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Commerce Deputy Secretary Don Graves Joins Congressman Mike Doyle in Hosting Roundtable Discussion with Pittsburgh-Area Leaders on the Need for High Speed, Affordable Internet


Graves Praises Pennsylvania for High Vaccine Rate and Stresses Administration’s Commitment to the Economic Recovery of the Coal Community

Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary Don Graves joined Congressman Mike Doyle and Mayor Bill Peduto in hosting a roundtable discussion to address the increasing need for high-speed, affordable internet access in the Pittsburgh-area and across America. Graves also met with the local coal community to reinforce the Administration’s commitment to their economic recovery and later visited a local vaccination site to stress the importance of getting vaccinated.

 

Deputy Secretary Don Graves and Congressman Mike Doyle.

 

At the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh, Deputy Secretary Graves opened the roundtable by stressing the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed how wide the digital divide is in America and how much Americans rely on broadband for schools, jobs and telemedicine. Participants in the roundtable included Pittsburgh- and Alleghany County leaders advocating for broadband access and affordability in schools, healthcare, public safety communications and workforce development. The participants shared their experiences on broadband access and how we can face some of the connectivity challenges we face across our country.

“Broadband access and affordability are not a luxury but are an essential part of everyday life,” said Deputy Secretary Graves. “Parents should never again be in the position where due to lack of access to broadband, they need to decide which of their children gets to go to school online that day.”

Deputy Secretary Don Graves, Congressman Mike Doyle and roundtable participants at Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh, PA. 


Graves also underlined the fact that more than 35% of rural Americans lack wired access to broadband at adequate speeds, as well as roughly half of households on tribal lands. And how 80% of households in urban areas lack internet connection, with Black and Hispanic families less likely to have high-speed internet compared to their white peers.

“Investments in high-speed and affordable broadband access are a crucial part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to ensure that communities of color and other underserved communities get a fair shot at the American dream.”

Specifically, Deputy Secretary Graves praised the Senate’s recent passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which calls for an investment of $65 billion to help bring high-speed broadband to all Americans, to bring down high-speed internet prices across the board and to close the digital divide.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create millions of good-paying jobs and position the U.S. to remain competitive in the 21st Century. This $654 billion investment in affordable, reliable broadband will allow all Americans to participate in the digital economy.”

Deputy Secretary Graves also underscored that broadband will be a top priority for the Department of Commerce and announced that communities across America can now apply to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Connecting Minority Communities Program that will direct $269 million for expanding broadband access and connectivity to Historically Black, Tribal and minority-serving colleges and universities to help them purchase broadband services or equipment, hire IT personnel, and create digital literacy programs.

Following the roundtable, Deputy Secretary Graves visited a vaccination site in Alleghany County where he underlined the importance of getting vaccinated and heard about the vital being done there to confront the virus. He also praised Pennsylvania as a model for vaccination nationwide with 66% of residents having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine compared to 58% nationwide.

Deputy Secretary Graves visits a vaccination site in Alleghany County, Pennsylvania where he underlined the importance of getting vaccinated and heard about the vital being done to confront the virus.


Later in the day, Deputy Secretary Graves hosted a roundtable discussion with the local coal community to stress the Administration’s commitment to their economic recovery. The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently launched a Coal Communities Commitment that allocates $300 million from the American Rescue Plan to support coal communities as they recover from the pandemic and to help them create new jobs and opportunities.

Photo of Deputy Secretary Graves at roundtable discussion with members of the Pittsburgh-area coal community.


To conclude the day, Deputy Secretary Graves visited Wabtec Corporation, a valued export client of Commerce's U.S. Commercial Service with a rich manufacturing history in Pittsburgh. During his visit and tour, Deputy Secretary Graves learned about their leadership in advancing zero-emissions transportation and tackling workforce development challenges.

Deputy Secretary Graves at a tour of Wabtec Corporation in Pittsburgh, PA.


For more information on NTIA’s Connecting Minority Communities Program, a series of webinars will be held to further inform the public about the Notice of Funding Opportunity. The next Connecting Minority Communities webinars will be held on September 22 and 23. Completed applications must be received by grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, 2021.

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