Biden announces $3B investment in high speed internet for rural communities during NC visit

Friday, January 19, 2024
While in NC, Biden announces $3B investment in high speed internet
The president spoke about Bidenomics and his administration's commitment to building back America's infrastructure.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- President Joe Biden arrived in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon for a speaking engagement at Abbotts Creek Community Center in Raleigh.

The president arrived ahead of schedule and began speaking at the community center around 2 p.m.

His speech was about Bidenomics and his administration's commitment to building back America's infrastructure.

President Joe Biden arrived in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon for a speaking engagement at Abbotts Creek Community Center in Raleigh.

Signage at the event sported the phrase "Investing in America" with a wifi logo. Biden spoke about policies that use government resources to help companies bring high-speed internet to places in North Carolina that do not currently have that access.

Biden revealed his administration would invest $3 billion to build and fund internet connections in North Carolina. The administration estimates that an additional 300,000 state residents will be able to access the internet by the end of 2026.

In a more immediate push, Biden said his administration would spend $82 million in North Carolina to help connect 16,000 new households and businesses to high-speed internet, delivering an election-year pitch about policies he says are "just getting started" at improving the United States.

Part of the $3 billion investment will go to expanding the fiber optic networks expected to power the internet for the next generation. Biden said he also plans to create subsidies for low-income residents to help them gain access to this resource.

Army veteran Edward Smith introduced Biden at the event. Smith is from Tar Heel, North Carolina, in Bladen County. He recalled having to use dial-up or drive to a library just to get access to his VA benefits or help his grandchildren with homework. He said when broadband finally came to his town, it changed everything.

"Thanks to President Biden and this support from the state my family and my neighbors are now connected to high-speed internet," Smith said.

Polling shows that the economy has been a weakness for Biden, a reflection of inflation hitting a four-decade high in June 2022. Easing inflation rates since then have yet to pull Biden's approval ratings back to their levels at the start of his presidency. The president has tried to empathize with voters grappling with higher inflation, but he has stressed that his policies are fostering the creation of factory and construction jobs with middle-class wages.

"When jobs grow, everything grows," Biden said as he ticked through federal spending on projects made possible by his pandemic aid package and an infrastructure law.

Biden in the community

After the event, Biden and Gov. Roy Cooper stopped by the Cook Out on Falls of Neuse Road. Biden got a vanilla milkshake with chocolate syrup, and Cooper got a milkshake with M&Ms.

While there, the politicians spoke with workers and posed for selfies.

At around 3:15 p.m., Biden then stopped at a family's home in Raleigh for a small conversation. Biden's campaign described the event as a "kitchen table conversation about the impact his agenda is having on their lives." The head of the family is an educator who had a significant amount of student debt forgiven.

That stop lasted more than an hour before Biden re-entered his motorcade and headed back to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Traffic concerns

Biden's most likely route will take him from the airport to I-540 and up Falls of Neuse Road.

Traffic along that route could see some closures and significant backups in the afternoon when the president departs.

The return trip's timing is fluid but expected to be around 4-5 p.m.

Wake County Public School System already alerted schools and parents in the area to prepare for a later dismissal.

Joe Biden possible motorcade route

Campaigning against Trump

Biden, the Democratic incumbent who is campaigning to win a second term, coupled his economic message Thursday with a few jabs at his predecessor, Donald Trump, currently the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination and his most likely future challenger.

Biden brought up Trump's recent comment that he hoped the economy would crash soon because he doesn't want to preside over job losses if he were to be reelected in November. Biden told his audience that Trump already was like Herbert Hoover, who held office during the 1929 stock market crash.

"He's the only president to be president for four years and lose jobs," Biden said of Trump.

Biden said the work his administration is doing in North Carolina, on high-speed internet, infrastructure and more, is happening in communities across the country, regardless of the politics.

"What we're doing here in North Carolina is one piece of a much bigger story," he said. He said he was keeping his promise to be a president for all America, whether you voted for me or not."

Biden's reelection campaign has made winning North Carolina and its 16 electoral votes a top priority in this year's presidential election. The Democrat narrowly lost the state in 2020 by 1.34 percentage points to Trump. They are expected to face each other again in November.

Fast-growing North Carolina is considered a presidential battleground, but only twice in the last 40-plus years has a Democrat won the state's electoral votes: Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Barack Obama in 2008.

Trump won the state in both 2016 and 2020, with the latter victory in part a result of massive turnout for Republicans in rural and non-urban counties overcoming increasingly Democratic strongholds in and around Raleigh and Charlotte.

Republicans hold narrow veto-proof control of the state Legislature and a majority on the state Supreme Court. But voters still appear comfortable with a Democratic state chief executive who attempts to counteract GOP policies, which recently have included more abortion restrictions and expanded private school vouchers. Democrats have held the governorship for all but four years since 1993.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is term-limited from running this year, spoke before Biden on Thursday, boosting Biden and criticizing Trump.

"I want a president who wakes up every morning thinking about the American people instead of a president who wakes up every morning thinking about himself," Cooper said.

Expected GOP competition

The visit comes shortly after Donald Trump took his first official step closer to being the Republican nominee for president. Trump easily won the Iowa caucus Monday, and he remains the overwhelming favorite to secure the party's nomination.

SEE ALSO | Trump's defamation trial starts as judge denies one-day adjournment for him to attend funeral

Trump has won North Carolina in both of his election bids. He won it handily in 2016 against Hillary Clinton and won a much closer election in 2020 against Joe Biden.

North Carolina has a reputation as a purple state, but in the presidential election, it has gone red every election since 1980 -- except for 2008 when Barack Obama took the state.

The last time a Republican won the presidency without North Carolina was Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley said inflation is one key issue that has drawn the most attention this election cycle.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer-price index has risen 3.4% year-over-year as of December. That rate of increase has slowed considerably, with prices largely stabilizing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.