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U.S. Commerce Secretary stresses the importance of updating American broadband internet

In this article:
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U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo joins 'Influencers with Andy Serwer' to discuss plans to update broadband internet access across the country.

Video Transcript

ANDY SERWER: Can I ask you about broadband and expanding access to broadband? And you've kind of got two fronts there-- people in urban populations who can't afford it, don't have access, and then the rural populations where it's an abomination, quite frankly.

GINA RAIMONDO: Yeah.

ANDY SERWER: Where do you stand? I know that's part of your remit as well, right?

GINA RAIMONDO: It is. That's a huge piece of business here at the Department of Commerce. The bipartisan infrastructure law sent tens of billions of dollars to the Department of Commerce. Our job is to use that to make sure every American has broadband-- rural, tribal, urban.

You're exactly right-- the issues are different in urban areas. It's less about access and more about affordability. I was the governor of Rhode Island. There's no rural Rhode Island. It's urban. It's densely populated.

There's fiber everywhere, but it's not affordable everywhere. So in those places, we have to work harder on affordability, also on providing digital literacy to folks. In the rural areas and tribal areas, we have to lay fiber. And we have to use other technologies. Right now, it's so heartbreaking, Andy, to spend time, as I've done, in rural America-- there is no broadband for miles-- hundreds of miles, which means you can't work from home, you can't visit the doctor, you know, with telemedicine, your kids can't have virtual school.

You know, in tribal lands out West, teachers would literally drive worksheets once a week to their students so the kids could do the work on paper and then, you know, mail it back or drive it back to the school. So anyway, yeah, we have to do it. We will do it. We'll do it in partnership with the providers. At the end of this mission, every single American ought to have high speed, affordable broadband.

ANDY SERWER: I want to drill down on that point you just made about working with the providers, because, I mean, that's always key for you-- the private sector. And you've got the cable companies and then you've got things like Starlink.

GINA RAIMONDO: Yes.

ANDY SERWER: With Elon.

GINA RAIMONDO: Yes.

ANDY SERWER: And are you working with all those? I mean, is Starlink for real, for instance?

GINA RAIMONDO: So I don't want to comment on any particular company. But I will say this-- we want to be technology agnostic and company agnostic. We want to work in partnership with the private sector to get the job done. And by the way, it may not be economical to lay fiber all the way through Alaska, for example.

So we're going to have to embrace different technologies. But what I've said-- I've spent a lot of time so far with service providers from the very biggest to the smallest, we want to work with all of you. We're going to hold you accountable. We need price transparency. We need competition.

And you know, it's a balance. It is a balance. Yes, they will receive money from the government to do the right thing. But it better be affordable. You know, affordability is critical. And affordable isn't $100 a month. And as I said, transparency and competition.