President Speaks In Durant; Lays Out Plan To Expand High-Speed Internet

Wednesday, July 15th 2015, 11:56 pm
By: Craig Day

Wednesday, it was history-in-the-making, as President Barack Obama landed on Sooner soil.

Oklahomans packed the high school in Durant to hear the president's plan to bring the World Wide Web into more homes and schools across the Choctaw Nation and dozens of other areas across the country.

During his visit to Durant, Obama explained his plan to expand high-speed Internet and why it’s so important.

He said there are a number of programs out of Washington that waste money, but there are times investments need to be made in future generations and his ConnectHome program will do that.

Hundreds of people, eager to experience the rare opportunity to see the President of the United States in person, packed Durant high school. Many waited in long lines in the heat for hours to get inside.

"I think it's exciting a president is coming to Oklahoma. First time I've seen one and I'm 70 years old. First time I've seen one in Oklahoma," said Crowder resident, Ron Gragg.

Obama introduced an initiative to expand high-speed broadband to low-income households in selected areas across the country.

"We have to pay attention to those communities that fort feel left behind and are neglected," he said.

The ConnectHome initiative will be launched in 27 cities and in the Choctaw Nation.

Learn More About The ConnectHome Initiative

"Internet service is not a luxury, it's a necessity. You cannot function in our economy without the Internet," he said.

By partnering with eight nationwide Internet services, high-speed Internet service will be more available and affordable.

Obama said, "Today we take another step to close the digital divide in America."

Jesse Pacheco and other tribal members are excited the Choctaw Nation’s ten and a half county area in southeastern Oklahoma is included in ConnectHome.

"Definitely help the development in the southeastern part of Oklahoma down here. By providing that infrastructure, I think it will help bring jobs here and that's a good thing," Pacheco said.

Tribal member, Billy Eagle Road said, "I never really had Internet at home, I had to always go to the library in town or go to the school’s computer lab to get the Internet."

The ConnectHome program unveiled by the president in Durant will initially reach 275,000 low-income households in the Choctaw Nation and 27 cities nationwide.

The president’s trip isn't only about economic and education opportunities, it's also about making the criminal justice system fairer.

Thursday, he'll tour the federal prison in El Reno and talk with law enforcement and prisoners. That'll make him the first sitting president to visit a federal prison.