02:21 PM

Obama Touts Broadband Initiative For Schools

ConnectED aims to bring high-speed Internet and devices to schools and libraries across the U.S.

Tablets Rock On: Education Tech Through The Ages
Tablets Rock On: Education Tech Through The Ages
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The White House is pushing for faster Internet at U.S. schools and libraries. President Obama on Thursday announced an initiative that aims to bring 100-Mbps to 1-Gbps broadband connections to 99% of students within five years.

The initiative, called ConnectED, requires no action from Congress and calls on businesses, states, districts and communities to support Obama's vision of high-speed broadband and wireless access at the nation's schools and libraries. Currently, the average school has the same connectivity as a household, but serves 200 times more users. Only about 20% of educators feel their school's broadband meets their teaching needs, according to the White House.

The president has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use its $2.3 billion-dollar E-Rate program to provide resources for ConnectED. E-Rate is part of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which helps schools and libraries obtain telecommunications, broadband and internal network services at discounted rates. According to administration officials, the effort would need an investment of several billion dollars, which could potentially be collected in a few years by charging Americans less than $5 per year on their phone bills. It's still unclear whether the FCC will pursue that option, since it has yet to review existing funding and the initiative's requirements.

[ Is technology taking over the classroom? See Parents Press For Mobile Tech In Education. ]

The FCC made some upgrades to its E-Rate program in 2010. Changes included easier access for users to "dark" fiber networks and a new funding index formula to keep pace with inflation. However, E-Rate and the USF need more upgrading for the plan to work, Obama said when announcing ConnectED.

AT&T responded to the announcement, suggesting specific changes. "The USF contribution methodology must be updated to encompass more than the legacy services assessed today as we transition to the all-IP communications networks of tomorrow. In addition, the very cumbersome rules surrounding the current e-Rate program simply must be streamlined and made more efficient," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a written statement.

In addition to bringing high-speed connectivity to schools, ConnectED intends to train teachers to integrate technology in their classrooms and to use digital education tools such as interactive online lessons. Obama has asked the federal government to tap into existing funds to make this happen.

The final goal of ConnectED is to build on private-sector innovation. Schools have the opportunity to bring "feature-rich educational devices" to classrooms. Such devices, increasingly available at lower prices, could cost school districts even less if they come together to purchase in volume. With faster Internet and better devices, "students can have access to more rigorous and engaging classes, new learning resources, rich visualizations of complex concepts and instruction in any foreign language," said a White House document outlining the initiative.

ConnectED is part of a larger broadband plan introduced by the Obama administration in 2011. The fiscal 2012 budget included $18 billion in federal funds to connect 98% of the U.S. population to broadband Internet through mobile devices over the next five years.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Ninja
6/8/2013 | 4:51:53 PM
re: Obama Touts Broadband Initiative For Schools
The NSA needs broadband in order to spy on school children....
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial Services
IT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on for the week of October 9, 2016. We'll be talking with the editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll