WASHINGTON, June 6, 2013 - President Barack Obama announced a new plan – dubbed ConnectEd – to expand ultra high-speed broadband access to nearly all schools in the country during a speech at Mooreville Middle School in North Carolina this afternoon.
The initiative, entitled ConnectEd, aims to bring wired broadband and wireless access to 99 percent of schools within the next five years.
“Specifically, today, I am directing the Federal Communications Commission to begin a process that will connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed broadband Internet within five years,” he said to applause. “Within five years we're going to get it done.”
“Now, those of you here at Mooresville understand why this is important, but I'm speaking to a larger audience, so I want to explain why this is important,” Obama continued.
“Today, the average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home. Only around 20 percent of our students have access to true high-speed Internet in their classroom. By comparison, South Korea has 100 percent of its kids with high-speed Internet. We've got 20 percent; South Korea 100 percent. In countries where -- in a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools? Right? Why wouldn’t we have it available for our children’s education?”
The president called on the FCC to use the existing eRate program to direct the government to provide the necessary technology and training for teachers to use it and urge the communities to support the program.
The increased connectivity proposed by the Obama administration would allow teachers and students to take advantage of personalized software, online textbooks and other helpful programs.
The ConnectEd program will also embrace private sector innovation. Districts will be able to purchase educational devices from leading technology companies and take advantage of various educational programs and apps.
International competition was a significant driving factor behind this initiative. In South Korea, not only do schools have ultra-high-speed internet connections, teachers receive digital literacy training, and print textbooks will be phased out in favor of digital by 2016.
The program has already gained support from the FCC. Earlier on Thursday, Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn issued a statement expressing agreement with the president’s assessment of the importance of broadband in the classroom.
“Basic Internet access is no longer sufficient, and the FCC has been taking a hard look at ways to further modernize the eRate program to bring robust broadband to schools and libraries, especially those in low income and rural communities,” she said.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also issued a statement expressing approval of the ConnectEd initiative. In recent months, she has been promoting just such a program, and she noted past successed of the eRate program.
“We need to protect what we have done, build on it, and put it on a course to provide higher speeds and greater opportunities in the days ahead. This initiative is an exciting effort that has my wholehearted and enthusiastic support,” she said.