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Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives latest update and makes announcement in Buffalo.
ANDREW CUOMO: Who needs no introduction anywhere in this country, the founder of Google. Dr. Schmidt headed the Imagination Commission for us and did a brilliant job. And I want to thank you very much for being with us. Dr. Eric Schmidt.
To my left, we have the great mayor of the city of Buffalo, Byron Brown.
And to Byron's left, we have Charles Phillips, who is the Managing Director and Co-founder of Recognize. He was the chairman of Infor. He was also a key part of our Reimagine Commission, which he did extraordinary work. Let's give Mr Phillips a round of applause.
We have with us Kate Harris, who was the director of the commission and an advisor to me. They had over 50 meetings, this commission. So they took it very seriously. Kate, thank you for your leadership.
And then we have with us a good friend and just a man who embodies the spirit of Buffalo, Thurman Thomas. Thurman, good to be with you.
And Patty Thomas, who also is the spirit of Buffalo. Patty, good to be with you.
Buffalo Bills, we had a good season. I think if Thurman was out there, we would gone all the way with Thurman. OK, this is an exciting day today. And let me talk to you about a number of matters. The COVID crisis, which we are all aware of, we're still in the midst of. It is not over-- it is better, but it is not over.
We shouldn't act like it's over. We have to appreciate that we have made progress, but we are still dealing with it. It's been an international event that has done tremendous damage all across the board-- number of lives lost, economic loss, jobs lost, businesses closed, social isolation.
The damage has been unlike anything we've seen in my generation. It is a war, and it's a war that we're still in the midst of. One of the great questions, I think, in life is, what do you do when life knocks you down? And life will knock you down.
COVID has knocked us down. Something in life will come along. No matter how hard you prepare, no matter how smart we are, no matter how good we are, something will come along in life and knock you down. There'll be something that happens in the family, there'll be a health issue, there'll be an economic issue, but there'll be something that comes and knocks you on your rear end.
And then the quake time of a view into character is what do you do when life knocks you down. Do you stay down? Do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you blame everyone else? Or do you get up, and dust yourself off, and say, let me learn from this experience?
Let's learn what happened here. And let me learn so that when I get up, I am the better for it. And I have learned from it. And I have grown from it. That's how we have to think of COVID.
Yes, it knocked us on our rear end as a nation, as a state, as a people, as a planet. But what do we do now? I say COVID was low tide in America. Meaning what? That COVID did damage in and of itself, but what COVID also did was it exposed so many of the underlying conditions in this country that were unfair and inequitable.
You know, when the tide is high, it covers a lot of sins. When that tide goes out and you see the bottom of the ocean, you see all sorts of ugliness. Well, it just developed-- no it didn't. It was there, it was just covered by the high tide.
And when COVID went out, you saw so much of the systemic injustice and discrimination in society. Blacks died at twice the rate of whites. Hispanics died at 1.5 times the rate of whites. Why? Because they didn't have the same access to health care, because they didn't have the same access to COVID testing, there were more underlying conditions.
Well, remote learning-- who got left behind in remote learning? Poorer children, poorer communities who didn't have the same access. That's something else we have to learn from. The injustices that COVID exposed-- and let's take this moment and make it a productive and a constructive one, recognize the pain and the loss, but recognize that we can learn from this.
That's why we formed the Reimagine New York State Commission-- to say, yes, while we're focusing on fighting the virus, and we're fighting the vaccines, and we're fighting this, and keeping the health care system-- we want the Reimagine Commission to take a look at what we've seen during COVID. And that's the charge that was to the Reimagine Commission and Dr. Schmidt, and Charles Phillips, and Kate Harris.
Learn from this so that when we come out the other side, we come out better. The Reimagine Commission was some of the best minds on the globe-- on the globe, literally, who gave us their time in all different fields to assess the situation and find out how to learn and how to grow. The commission came back and basically said, in my words, the key to success is always the same.
It is access. It is access-- access to education, access to capital, access to banking. It is about access. The commission says, equal access to high quality affordable internet connectivity is a prerequisite to making the many other hard and essential changes.
Access today is not a highway system. It's not a phone call. Access today is the internet system and the broadband system. Access to remote learning-- a great concept if-- if you have the equipment, and you have the training, and you have the assistance to make remote learning work, and if you have access to broadband.
Telemedicine-- no doubt there was a great potential in telemedicine if you have the access to broadband. Otherwise, it is non-functional for you. Well, now you can apply for a new job. You can apply for new training and for new skills-- so much information on the internet. Yes, but you have to be able to get there and you need access to broadband.
You can connect with loved ones around the world. You can form friendships and social groups, yes. And you can access government services. You can get a driver's license. You can get a vaccination appointment-- all done faster and easier than ever before if you have broadband.
And for many, many people, they are precluded by not having access. Now, there are two barriers to broadband. One is literal access. Can you get it? And the second is if you can get it, can you afford it?
Good news on access-- 98% of the state now has access to high speed broadband. We've been working on this for years. And we're up to 98%. But 98% still says 2% is out, and we're not done until we hit 100%. Part of this bill, we're going to do an in-depth study of the places that don't have access to high speed broadband, identify them specifically, and get them the access.
The second is the affordability. Oh, you can get it if you can pay for it. And these internet packages are often very, very expensive because they bundle it with TV, and with this, and it can be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year to get access to the internet. And many New Yorkers just can't afford it, especially today, especially in a post-COVID economy.
So we're going to sign a law today that is very simple but very profound. The law requires all internet service providers in the state-- if you do business in this state-- so if you are a Spectrum, or an Optimum, a Verizon, or Frontier, a Windstream-- either big ones or small ones, all internet providers must offer high speed internet at an affordable cost-- $15 a month, period, all equipment, all fees, et cetera.
That's the cost that they must provide to any low-income family in this state and low-income people who qualify for governmental assistance, because they are low-income. That, my friend, will democratize access to society and services. And we're very excited about that.
For families that can't afford the $15, Connected New York will finance 50,000 students and their families for that $15 a month so they have access during this period, especially important during this remote learning. And that is going to be done by an emergency fund that is going to be funded from Schmidt Futures and Ford Foundation-- 50,000 students and their families free access. Let's give them a round of applause.
For America, broadband holds great power. It will either be the great equalizer for society or it will be the great divider. It can either equalize the playing field where anyone can get access to information and education, or it will divide the society by income, by race, and by class. And as a divider, if you are not on the internet, you can be left behind at 100 miles an hour.
This low-cost broadband access in this state is the first law of its kind in the nation. New York leads once again. Thank you to Mr Schmidt, Mr Infor.
Thank you, the Reimagine Commission, Chairman Schmidt, Charles Phillips. I want to thank the New York state legislature for passing this progressive, ambitious bill. It is the question of the time. And people ask me this every day-- what will New York state be like post-COVID?
What's going to be New York after post-COVID? What's going to be America post-COVID? It will be what we make it. It will be what we make it. It's that simple.
And in New York, we will be better for what we went through. Yes, you knocked us down. But we're going to get up, and we're going to learn, and we're going to grow. Today, we made New York state better than it was before COVID, because we learned and we saw the inequities.
We just have to reimagine New York. We have to learn from low tide and the ugliness that we saw. And we have to correct it. And we have to correct it now. Come up with a vision of what you see as a better society, a fairer society, a more just society, and then make it a reality.
That is what we do and who we are as New York. We dream big. We're a state of dreamers. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here. We dream that we can do the impossible, and then we do it time and time again.
That's what makes this state special. And that's what makes the people of New York state special. Knock us down, we get up. And we get up better and we get up stronger. Thank you. Let me now turn it to Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Majority Leader of the Assembly who was key in this bill.
Let me also add that the Majority Leader was also key in getting the cannabis legalization legislation passed this year. We had tried two times before. And it's the right thing to do, but it was politically the difficult thing to do. And it had to be worked extraordinarily hard in the legislature.
And the way it tends to work in any endeavor-- somebody has to say, I know it's hard, but I'm going to take on this challenge, and I'm going to get it done. And cannabis legalization does not happen without Crystal Peoples-Stokes. With that the Majority Leader
CRYSTAL PEOPLES-STOKES: Thank you, governor. And thank you for being here today. We're always excited when we have the opportunity for you to be in Buffalo. I want to thank you for your leadership in getting us through-- well, almost through-- the pandemic. We are still there, and there are still a lot of concerns that we have to pay attention to.
But it is without question that your leadership during the course of this pandemic has got us to this point. And for those of us in western New York, we're grateful. And we're thankful to you. So we want to applaud you for that.
The community has suffered a lot during the past year-- so many communities across the country, but more importantly, across New York state. And while we remain socially distant, there is an issue of connectivity in communities that's critical and that has to happen. You mentioned it in your comments that, you know, students are at home trying to learn remotely. There's telehealth issues.
People need to have access to good, quality internet. And I think most people are walking around with a smartphone, but that doesn't mean that they have access to the internet just because they have a smartphone. And I know that there are some people who literally have to bring their children to libraries in order to do homework. Some folks are sitting in parking lots outside of McDonald's and Taco Bell to get access to the Wi-Fi.
So the action that was taken in this year's budget to provide the service to New Yorkers across the state who need to have that is really critical. And it's critical that the governor's study of broadband has to happen, because we know that there are a lot of people who live in cities, and inner cities, and maybe even towns and villages that may have better access, but those who live in rural communities do not.
And in fact, some of those who live in cities do not. And so we really do need to do the research, find out where they are. There's that 2% that still needs attention, as the governor mentioned. And he's committed to finding where that 2%, and so is the legislature. So we look forward to certainly providing that.
I also want to add my sincere gratitude to Smith Future and Ford Foundation for creating the connect-- partnership with the state. That's critical. That's like public partnerships working together in the interests of people. And I quite honestly think that's the way society should be designed. And so I'm honored to know these folks and honored to know that they're willing to weigh in to what we need in our school systems and our communities.
Again, I want to thank the governor for being here. I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to introduce a couple of my friends-- governor, I heard you introduce a couple of yours at the beginning.
ANDREW CUOMO: Ours.
CRYSTAL PEOPLES-STOKES: Ours, ours. But these folks are important to, you know, Buffalo and western New York continuing its leadership in the state of New York. And I want to start with Reverend Mark Blue, who is the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lackawanna and the president of the Buffalo NAACP. Everybody doesn't know you, Reverend Blue, so if you could just raise your hand or something like that so--
And secondly, governor, our friend, Eunice Luvin, member of the SUNY Trustee Board and a champion for STEM education.
Thirdly, governor, our friend, Victor McDuffie, former president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League.
And lastly, our friend and a true champion of Buffalo that we're so happy that he decided to relocate here. He is Thomas Buford, and he's the president and CEO of the Urban League currently. Mr Buford.
Finally, New York will certainly bounce back better than ever. And once again, I want to thank the governor for his commitment to equity and for his vision in renewing New York. Thank you, Mr Governor. Thank you all for being here.
ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Let me turn now to the truly phenomenal mayor. You know, the government has been tested like never before during this COVID crisis. This is not something you can just talk your way through. This is something where real leadership was required. You had to step up. You had to accept the challenge.
You had to accept the challenge that, frankly, many people ran from because it was so frightening. And that's leadership. And then you had to perform at the same time. You have to get those vaccination centers set up, you have to educate people about COVID, you have to deal with the controversy and the opposition.
And it's not easy. But it was also a time when you could see into a person's soul and you could see what a person was made of. And the people of Buffalo were blessed to have mayor Byron Brown lead Buffalo. And he's been an extraordinary partner to me, my mayor Byron Brown.
BYRON BROWN: Thank you very much, governor. And thank you for being with us here today in Buffalo. It's always an honor to welcome Governor Cuomo to the city of Buffalo and western New York. And whenever the governor is here, he is bringing good news for our community. So if it was possible, I'd like to see the governor here in Buffalo every single day.
Before I say a few words, let me just make some acknowledgments as well. I want to recognize Jonathan Dandy's Chair of the Board of Directors at Erie County Medical Center.
Allegra Jaros, President John R Oishei Children's Hospital of Buffalo.
And Joyce Markowitz, Chief Business Development Officer at Catholic Health in Buffalo.
Let me start out by saying that I trust Governor Cuomo's leadership. We share a real commitment to Buffalo, and I've worked with him long enough to know that he truly cares about our great city. As mayor, I have always been committed to making Buffalo a thriving, innovative city where no one is left out and where no one is left behind.
Governor Cuomo shares these values. He also knows about the inequities that existed in our society long before the COVID pandemic began. That's why he created the Vaccine Equity Task Force, working with trusted community leaders to promote the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
That's why he helped us create pop-up vaccination sites across Buffalo, tackling racial disparities in access to the vaccine. And that's why Governor Cuomo is here in Buffalo today signing this affordable broadband bill. We know all too well how isolated and anxious this pandemic has made New Yorkers feel.
We know the tremendous frustration that has been in our community. Those feelings were compounded for those without access to the internet-- for the students who struggled to log into their school sessions and the parents who tried to help them, for the families struggling to talk to a doctor without the option of telehealth, for those looking to work or to find workforce training, and for those who simply missed seeing their loved ones.
A member of my staff yesterday told us that she was going to see her mother for the first time in a year. The pandemic has made it clear that we cannot consider high speed internet a luxury. It is a necessity for modern life.
The governor has already taken great steps to expand the state's broadband infrastructure. Now, we need to make sure it is affordable. Signing this bill does just that. Again, governor, I want to say, thank you, for your vision and your bold leadership toward building back a better and stronger New York. Thank you, governor.
ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you very much, mayor. Thank you.
Now the head of the commission, Dr. Schmidt. You know him, obviously, as a great technology innovator-- started even before Google, but Google was just a brilliant invention. Curiously, I had the idea for Google before Eric Schmidt had the idea for Google. I saw it, and I had the name, I had everything-- the icon. I just couldn't figure out how to turn on the computer.
But if I had figured out how to turn it on-- but what's most remarkable about Dr. Schmidt, it's not what he has done in the past, it's what he continues to do. What he's doing with Schmidt Futures, his work with defense, his work with the environment, his work with the oceans-- he could just be sitting on the beach somewhere taking sun, right? But he's trying to make this place a better place.
And he's been so kind to us here in New York state. He is an internationally desired commodity with his expertise. He's working on national issues, international issues. He took the time and made the time to run this commission for New York. And he did brilliant work.
And all New Yorkers owe him a debt of gratitude. And the proof is in the pudding. We just signed the first law in the nation to provide access to low-income Americans. And we did it because of the good work the Reimagine Commission did. Thank you, Dr. Schmidt. Thank you.
ERIC SCHMIDT: Governor, your leadership in general over this pandemic has been extraordinary. Majority Leader, thank you for working hand-in-hand with the governor to make these things happen. Let me introduce two folks from our group who did all the work-- Eric Braverman, Elizabeth Rosenblatt sitting here in the front.
We were able, by virtue of your convening of this commission, one, to frankly have a really good time as a commission. We learned a lot from each other. You picked the right people. And more importantly, we started off thinking, well, maybe there's a big problem with telehealth.
And we realized that people were not getting their health checkup and so forth because of administrative matters and systems matters, which we studied pretty extensively. Your team made the changes necessary to make that possible in New York-- you did it, you and your team. We looked a lot at this workforce training question.
There's lots and lots of evidence that there are high-paying jobs available for people who can do the jobs, but they're either not in the right place or they don't have the correct certificate or what have you. I think Northland, where we are today, is a really good example of the kind of stuff that you're doing in the state. And I really want to congratulate you for your leadership running it. And that's, frankly, why we're here.
But over the many meetings of the commission, you get a sense of what matters. And it became pretty clear that people were very concerned about the hundreds of thousands of people who apparently had no internet access at all. And because we were fact-finding and we had this idea that we should talk to, you know, 10,000 people, try to figure out what people really cared about, over and over again, we were given these stories of the form-- we have a minority teenager who's in a poor family situation.
They want to learn. They have no facility to do their work from school because of their housing situation. They may or may not have their own computer. And they certainly don't have affordable broadband. And that resonated with the commission, I think, more than anything else.
So we ranked, as you noted, governor, that this issue of universal connectivity was the first and most important that has come out of Reimagining New York. I am beyond proud of what the state has done to make this $15 a month affordable broadband for the appropriate people. I think it's exactly the right thing that we should be doing for all the reasons everybody has said.
The internet is no longer optional. I used to give these speeches about how it was optional, just turn it off. You can't do that anymore. It's essential to education. Think of the generation that we could be creating that are not learning because we didn't give them the right access.
And they're the ones most at-risk that need it most at all. It's a moral duty, it's the right thing to do, and you guys did it. We were chatting with Darren Walker, who's a fantastic member of the commission. And together, we decided to combine forces with the Ford Foundation, my group, and the state to put this connected solution together for 50,000 homes, which is both hardware as well as connectivity.
This will bridge the gap between the connectivity needs of their students and families. And it basically will-- it's part of the long-term policy solutions that we need to be doing. So you combine, frankly, the leadership from the state, the assembly, the governor, the governor's office, and then private philanthropy, and you can pull these things off.
And frankly, I think we should do more. This is when New York does its best-- a combination of private actors and the public doing the right thing for the benefit of all the citizens. So I'm committed to doing that. I could not be happier to be sitting here today over what, from my perspective, was a high impact and interesting challenge that the governor laid out. Look at how successful that was. Governor, send us more challenges.
ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Schmidt.
I remember the first conversation we had when we were putting together the commission. It's just as Dr. Schmidt said-- I had the same conversation with Charles Phillips, a number of people on the commission. They said, look, we're busy. We'll do this, but we don't want to just be part of a commission that does a report, and the report winds up on a bookshelf.
We'll do the work if you promise you will actually get it done afterwards. And thanks to the legislature and the people of the state of New York, we got it done. So I feel good that we lived up to our side of the bargain, which was actually the easier side of the bargain. You come up with the brilliant ideas, and then we'll do it.
Charles Philips is a technology pioneer and wizard. He was Oracle Chair and CEO of Infor. He now runs Recognize-- again, an international talent 10 times over. He's been extraordinary in his service to this nation. And we owe him a great debt of gratitude for what he has done here for the state of New York. Charles Phillips, thank you very, very much. And thank you for coming today. Charles Phillips.
CHARLES PHILLIPS: So, governor, Majority Leader, my old friend, Eric Schmidt, Mr Mayor, it's an honor to be here for this milestone for the state today. I've seen the power of the internet actually from its very inception. And I can't overstate how important access to broadband is for our kids. I was a computer science major at the Air Force Academy and took my commission in the Marines. During that time, the ARPANET, the fore-runner of the internet, was being built by the military.
Understanding and taking advantage of that connected world defined my career trajectory, as it did for many others. Fast forward many years later, I was CEO of a large software company and the defining value add was running on the internet in the cloud. We used that to make sure our software was accessible for thousands of people around the world, ended up with 77 million customers.
But it's more important in business now. The internet touches all aspects of life, including the educational opportunities. After the Academy of Marines, I followed up with an MBA in Virginia and law school at New York Law School. I'm a product of excellent educational opportunities, but those opportunities start with proximity and exposure to ideas and opportunities.
I was always a bit of a gadget guy. I loved computers and software. I built my first computer in high school, but because someone exposed me to those concepts early. The internet can provide access to information and the art of the possible like no other medium. Now, especially, in the context of this pandemic, I can see the adverse impact of the lack of broadband access to many kids.
I live in New York City, and it's a big issue there as well. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but the village has been moved to the internet. We want our next generation to have outstanding opportunities to learn and grow. For that to happen, they need to be on the internet, and that means having access to reliable, affordable, and high speed internet.
Today, high speed internet is not a luxury. It's a basic necessity like food, water, and shelter. The legislation the governor was signing today was the top recommendation of the Reimagine New York Commission. I was honored to serve on that commission as the work force co-chair. The commission concluded affordable internet is a prerequisite for a better education, for telemedicine, workforce training, and all aspects of a Reimagined New York.
I want to thank the governor for making this a reality. The legislation will impact lives. It will make it possible for young people to dream about their big education and their careers, even if they don't come from money or privilege. A workforce of the future demands nothing less.
Nelson Mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. These young people will now have the tools to change the world. Thank you, governor, for your leadership, and for your vision, for your bold, innovative Reimagine New York. Now one to comment on your leadership during a pandemic, which the entire nation needed. Thank you again, governor.
ANDREW CUOMO: Thank you, Mr. Phillips.
I would ask my colleagues to join me today right here as I sign the bill and we actually make this happen. Now, you see, nothing is easy in government. Just signing a bill is a little complex. But otherwise, it wouldn't be a signing pen unless it was used for the signing, you see. We are very technical in the way we do business.
It was not just redundancy.
- I was like, how many pens does he need?
ANDREW CUOMO: Congratulations. The bill is signed.
- Thank you very much.
ANDREW CUOMO: Let's give them a big round of applause. Thank you all. Thank you for being here today. Thank you. Congratulations, New York.
- Thank you for coming to Buffalo.