April 29, 2021—Joe Biden has assigned the task of providing access to high-speed internet to all Americans to vice-president Kamala Harris, he announced in his first address to Congress Wednesday, signaling the portfolio’s importance for the administration.
Late last month, Biden announced an infrastructure plan with an earmarked $100 billion to provide all Americans, by 2030, with access to high-speed internet.
“It is going to help our kids and our business to succeed in the 21st century,” Biden said in his address. “I’m asking the vice president to lead this effort because I know it will get done.”
The move to put the second-in-command at the helm signals the importance of the broadband portfolio to the Biden administration, which inherited a pandemic that has exposed the digital divide between rich and poor, urban and rural.
The importance of high-speed internet has been stressed by experts since before the pandemic, but many have argued that the pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of American broadband infrastructure.
As Americans were told to hunker down and mask up, they increased their reliance on telehealth and telework services. The pandemic has also broadened the Homework Gap and caused unique problems for students, particularly those in rural communities and inner-cities.
Despite Republican caution on Biden’s infrastructure plan and his mass spending plan, which would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations, members of the GOP have made it clear that they share the goal of connecting all Americans.