President Obama announced Thursday that he wants high-speed internet in 99% of American classrooms by 2018. During a speech at a Mooresville, North Carolina middle school known for its productive use of technology he stated, “Today, I’m issuing a new challenge for America — one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together — to connect virtually every student in America’s classrooms to high-speed broadband internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it.”
The president told reporters that he is ordering federal regulators to fund several billion dollars to connect high-speed or broadband in schools across the nation. He is placing the initiativeknown as ConnectED under the supervision of the Federal Communications Commission (FC) and is also requesting that body to provide high-speed connections at libraries.
In a statement released by the White House Obama was quoted as saying, “We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology”.
Obama’s concern stems from the fact that only about 20% of U.S. students now have access to high-speed internet at school. In a world where countries like South Korea are teaching students who are 100% wired he worries Americans will fall behind. He depicted the move as a way to ready American students for jobs of the future anda segment of a broader approach to economic growth.
The president said, “We can’t be stuck in the 19th century when we’re living in a 21st century economy.”
He chose to make the announcement at the Mooresville school because its students have shown marked improvement since the district’s superintendent decided to issue laptops to every student in the school. The fact that over 40% of the school’s students qualifies for free or reduced price lunches because of low family income and that the school ranks near the bottom in state funding reflects on its financial stresses yet according to the American Association of School Administrators it now produces the third-highest graduation rate and the second best test score rates in the state.
President Obama says an option for paying for the cost of providing internet services to many thousands of schools would be to enact a temporary surcharge on telephone bills. The initiative will also request industries in the private sector to help finance the purchase of desirable apps and educational software and to provide necessary tech training for teachers.
The president also pointed out that the initiative would not require an act of Congress. That means it cannot be blocked by the Republicans who frequently try to prevent Obama’s proposals from becoming reality.
FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel issued a written statement of support saying,”President Obama’s ConnectED initiative recognizes that access to adequate broadband capacity to our schools and libraries is not a luxury — it’s a necessity for America’s next generation of students to be able to compete ….”
The White House says ConnectED will especially benefit rural schools and communities because high-speed internet access currently has limited availability in rural and suburban areas.