April 2, 2020— A coalition of Democrats comprising House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., and key committee chairs Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., on Wednesday announced plans to center a new stimulus package around infrastructure, and heavily featured broadband in the discussion.
The proposed stimulus package would be the fourth in a series of government packages that aim to repair and prepare the country in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
“If they don’t have internet,” Pallone asked, “how are [Americans] gonna find [jobs]?”
Pallone, who is often in the spotlight in broadband news for his role as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, advocated for a proposed package to help close the digital divide.
Pallone referenced a study released by the Federal Communications Commission that determined that the government would need to $86 billion dollars over the course of five years to achieve 100 percent connectivity in the United States.
“The electric grid in many places is old,” Pallone said. “We’re gonna modernize the grid.”
Similarly, DeFazio called this new stimulus package a perfect opportunity to vanquish the digital divide.
He said schoolchildren in his district and hometown of Springfield, Oregon, would sit in front of school to access the school’s Wi-Fi to complete their homework “even after they get laptops from Bill and Melinda Gates.”
Some Republicans have surprisingly signaled support for an infrastructure stimulus. President Donald Trump expressed his willingness to spend as much as $2 trillion on an infrastructure stimulus.
Prior to the press call, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin mentioned having “ongoing conversations” with Democrats about the motion. “And we’ll continue to have those conversations,” Mnuchin said.
“For once I agree with him,” retorted Senator DeFazio, referring to Trump’s openness to an infrastructure stimulus. “This is prepping Americans for the 21st Century in so many ways.”
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