First Lady Dr. Jill Biden visits Bethel, reinforcing importance of closing digital divide
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden visited Bethel, Alaska, on Wednesday, and highlighted the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments in broadband connectivity through the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). IIJA programs and funding are closing the digital divide in Alaska and throughout the nation.
At an event held at Bethel High School, Dr. Biden heard remarks from local, regional and Tribal leaders about the importance of connectivity for health care, education and culture as well as the positive impact broadband projects will have on the region’s economy.
"The funding is going directly to Bethel Native Corporation because you know what your communities need, and I love the name that you’ve chosen for it," said Dr. Biden. "An Airraq isn’t the story itself. It’s a tool that helps us tell it. A simple string that becomes a thing of beauty with the creativity and joy and hope we bring to it. The connections of this community are already deep. But with Airraq, you will be able to bring them to life in new ways."
With Ana Hoffman and Bethel Native Corporation in the lead, Bethel and nine other Y-K Delta communities are set to receive residential 2.5 gig (2,500 Mbps) internet speeds in the coming years through the federally funded AIRRAQ fiber project. Several other Alaska providers also received funding to connect communities across the state.
“Investments made through IIJA and the Biden-Harris Administration will have a profound impact on the Y-K Delta and communities throughout the nation,” said Hoffman. “The Yup’ik people have lived and thrived here, in one of the most-challenging climates on earth, for generations, maintaining a vibrant culture, strong traditions and enduring values. There are many other communities Dr. Biden could have visited. We are honored she chose ours to demonstrate the importance of investment in connectivity to close the digital divide. I appreciate the way the community came together to address all of the unique logistics needed to accommodate this visit.”
Bethel Native Corporation is respected as a business leader with offices in Bethel, Anchorage and the lower 48. Bethel’s companies engage in many diverse lines of business including government contracting, construction, logistical support, environmental remediation and commercial real estate. Learn more about BNC at https://bethelnativecorp.org