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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

Coalition Says FCC E-rate Portal Proposal Could Create More Problems

Industry officials say the commission’s approach to E-rate competition would burden applicants.

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John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 21, 2021 – The executive director of a broadband coalition for anchor institutions said the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to force providers to bid for school and library services through a new portal will burden those applicants.

The agency proposed Thursday to force service providers to submit applications through a bidding portal overseen by the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the E-rate program that provides broadband subsidies to schools and libraries. The current approach is that libraries and schools announce they are seeking services and service providers would apply directly to those institutions.

By giving USAC the ability to see service provider applications before they go to the institutions, the agency said this would eliminate at least some forms of abuse or fraud, including participants who may misrepresent their certification or circumvent competitive-bidding rules.

But John Windhausen, executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, said that while he applauds the effort to listen to consumer needs, the portal’s one-size-fits-all approach would ultimately burden E-rate applicants and service providers.

He also claimed that there is not enough evidence to show that a new portal is needed and that it “would add a lot more federal bureaucracy on a program that is running pretty well right now.

“You would have federal employees at USAC trying to make determinations about what’s…in the best interests of the schools or libraries,” said Windhausen, “And we don’t think they’re really qualified to do that.”

Windhausen also sees potential conflict between the new bidding portal and some state laws already governing E-rate bidding. In a scenario in which state law and FCC policy conflict, it is not clear which policy would take precedence.

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Education

FCC Commits Another $603 Million in Emergency Connectivity Fund Money

The agency has now committed $3.8 billion from the $7.17-billion program.

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FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, December 20, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission’s latest round of Emergency Connectivity Fund money will disburse $603 million to connect over 1.4 million students in all 50 states, the agency said Monday.

The FCC said it has now committed $3.8 billion of the $7.17-billion program, which provides funding for schools and libraries to buy laptops, tablets, WiFi hotspots, modems, routers and connectivity to help students stay connected off school premises. The money comes as a new Covid-19 variant sweeps the nation again, putting face-to-face interactions at risk once again.

The agency also said Monday that it has allocated an additional $367 million in its first commitment and nearly $236 million in the second commitment.

The agency in October said that previous rounds had committed $2.63 billion from the fund since its launch in June.

The total amount committed to go to support 9,000 schools, 760 libraries, and 100 consortia for nearly 8.3 million connected devices and over 4.4 million broadband connections, the agency said in a Monday release.

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Education

Texas High School Students Enter the Fight for Better Connectivity

Students in a Houston-area school district hosted a panel on connecting schools and libraries as part of a national event on bridging the digital divide.

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John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition

WASHINGTON, December 1, 2021 – Generation Z students are making their mark at a Houston-area school district by adding broadband access to the list of issues they are actively working on.

The high school students in the Fort Bend Independent School District organized a panel conversation on internet access in education as part of Connected Nation’s national event titled “20 Years of Connecting the Nation,” and were able to host some high-profile guests in the world of telecommunications.

The November 17 panel included John Windhausen Jr., founder and executive director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, Chris Martinez, division director of information technology for the Harris County Public Library, Heather Gate, vice president of digital inclusion for Connected Nation, and Meredith Watassek, director of career and technical education for Fort Bend ISD.

Nine percent of residents in Harris County, where Houston is located, reports that they do not have a connected device at home and 18 percent say they do not have access to an internet connection. These gaps in access are the focus of the panelists’ digital equity efforts.

With Windhausen and Martinez present on the panel, a key point of discussion was the importance of helping libraries to act as anchor institutions – institutions which help enable universal broadband access.

Watassek pointed out that she has been helping oversee distance learning in Fort Bend ISD for six years, starting such a program to enable teachers to teach students in several of the district’s buildings without having to drive to each one, and has seen that with time and learned experience it is possible to work through distance learning logistical issues that school districts around the nation are currently facing.

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