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President Obama Unveils Ultra High Speed Initiative for Broadband in Education at Middle School in North Carolina

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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.

Josh Evans is a political science major at Grove City College. He is originally from Dover, Florida. An intern at the National Journalism Center in the summer of 2013, he is a Reporter for Broadband Census News and the News Editor for The Collegian at Grove City College.

Education

Federal Communications Commission Says $5 Billion Requested for Emergency Connectivity Fund — in Just Round One!

The program is designed to help schools, libraries and students.

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Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

August 25, 2021—Two months after launching the first round of applications, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that the Emergency Connectivity Fund has received more than $5 billion in funding requests.

The requests, which came from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, are for 9.1 million connected devices and 5.4 million broadband connections.

The $7-billion program, whose first round closed August 13, provides funding for schools and libraries to buy laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and general connectivity is expected to help students stay connected at school and off school premises, addressing the “homework gap” made paramount during the pandemic.

The money is to be used for said services and devices purchased between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. The program will open a second round for applications due to a spike in new coronavirus cases, which will run from September 28 to October 13.

“The Emergency Connectivity Fund is the single largest effort to bring connectivity and devices to students who lack them – and this robust response from applicants shows the tremendous need in our communities,” FCC acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a Wednesday press release.

“This funding is an important down payment in closing the Homework Gap so that all children, regardless of their circumstances or where they live, have access to the tools they need to succeed,” she added.

Congress authorized the program as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The FCC has previously noted that the Emergency Broadband Benefit had proved out that there is demand for such a program and that the ECF would help fill the gap.

Breakdown by state

The FCC included a breakdown of the first-round requests by state. California was the top requester at roughly $812 million, followed by New York with $559 million, Texas with $496 million, Florida with $264 million, New Jersey with $225 million, Arizona with $200 million, Illinois at $197 million, Georgia $183 million, North Carolina with $149 million, Michigan with $108 million, Ohio with $103 million, and Puerto Rico with $102 million, and Washington rounding out the 9-digit requesters with $101 million.

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Education

NTIA Releases Details on Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Project

The $285-million program will help connect minority educational institutions.

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Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo

August 4, 2021–The agency managing telecommunications policy for the commerce department has released details Tuesday on eligibility for its $285-million grant program for broadband access for minority educational institutions.

The Connecting Minority Communities pilot program, announced in June, will address the lack of broadband access, connectivity and equity at historically Black colleges or universities, Tribal colleges or universities, and minority-serving institutions.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration released a notice of funding opportunity for the program, established via the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, which will grant funds to eligible recipients to purchase broadband service or equipment, hire IT personnel, operate a minority business enterprise or a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and facilitate educational instruction, including remote instruction.

Eligible institutions include 501 Hispanic-serving institutions, 336 Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, 104 predominantly Black institutions, 102 historically Black colleges and universities, 66 Alaska native-serving institutions and native Hawaiian-serving institutions, 37 Tribal colleges and universities, and 32 native American-serving non-Tribal institutions.

The deadline to submit applications is December 1, 2021.

“Communities of color have faced systemic barriers to affordable broadband access since the beginning of the digital age,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a press release.

“The investments we make as part of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program will help communities that are struggling with access, adoption and connectivity, and will inform our path forward as we seek to finally close the digital divide across the country,” she added.

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Education

Broadband Breakfast CEO Drew Clark and BroadbandNow’s John Busby Speak on Libraries and Broadband

Friday’s Gigabit Libraries Network conversation will feature Drew Clark of Broadband Breakfast and John Busby of BroadbandNow.

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July 16, 2021—Friday’s Gigabit Libraries Network conversation will feature Drew Clark, Editor and Publisher of Broadband Breakfast, joined by John Busby, Managing Director of BroadbandNow. The event will take place on July 16, 2021, at 11 a.m. ET.

Registration for the event is available on Eventbrite. The session will also be available on Zoom.

Beginning in March of 2020, the Gigabit Libraries Network has hosted a series of conversations called the “Libraries in Recovery.”

The series is ambitious in its scope, and poses the question “What is a library if the building is closed?” Over the course of its more than 50 episodes, the the series has tackled myriad topics, ranging from equity, access, and inclusion to smart cities, social infrastructure, and the future of libraries.

The series recorded its first episode on March 26, 2020—only 15 days after the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The episode discussed the importance of internet access during a time when many questions about the pandemic were still swirling, and many of the ramifications had yet to be felt—only a week prior had the first states begun issuing lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

Broadband Breakfast also launched its webcast series, Broadband Breakfast Live Online, around the same time. The first session of the Broadband Breakfast series was on “Coronavirus and Education – Getting Ready for Online Education.”

Broadband Breakfast Live Online Archives provides links to all events in the Broadband Breakfast series.

Many of the Gigabit Libraries conversations and initiatives surrounding digital inclusion and the digital divide have only drifted into mainstream conversation in the wake of the pandemic.

During a time when many Americans had no idea how long they would have to remain indoors, “Libraries in Recovery” was discussing methods of boosting Wi-Fi signals to make internet available in library parking lots and the importance of remote access in anticipation of a surge in demand.

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