US Administration Unveils New Broadband Initiative for Schools

Feb 7, 2014

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US President Barack Obama is quickly making good on his threat to use his telephone and pen to enact those parts of his second term agenda for which he is unable to secure congressional support.  His latest move has been the introduction of a brand-new initiative allegedly aimed at making sure America's poorest students have access to broadband Internet connections.  The president plans to spend some USD $3 billion to provide high-speed Internet access to some 20 million American students who do not currently have it. In order to achieve his plan without congressional approval, Mr Obama has directed several federal agencies to divert some of their budgeted monies to the programme.  Moreover, while the US Congress can direct how much each federal agency receives in annual funding, those agencies choose how to spend the money allotted to them. Under the plan, the Federal Communications Commission will supply the initiative with $2 billion in funding while the Department of Agriculture kicks in another $10 million.  The administration has also secured commitments from a number of commercial entities that have agreed to contribute in a variety of ways:
  • Apple will spend $100 million on laptop computers and tablets to be donated to students in poor school districts
  • AT&T will spend $100 million to provide Internet access to underfunded schools
  • Sprint will spend $100 million to provide free Internet access to disadvantaged students for four years
  • Verizon will contribute $100 million in cash to the programme
  • Microsoft will provide operating system software at deeply discounted prices
Mr Obama maintains his ConnectED programme will virtually guarantee 99% of America's students have high-speed Internet access within the next five years.  He believes the programme is vital if students are to receive a high enough level of education to compete in the global marketplace.

Where to Go from Here

On the face of it, the programme appears to be very similar to programmes already established in several European countries.  However, the larger question is where to go from here…  Over the last few decades, the United States has consistently performed poorly in terms of globally accepted educational standards.  It's hard to believe that the failure of the American education system has anything to do with a lack of broadband Internet access among poor students. The Internet is indeed a great teaching tool and one that should be available to as many students as possible.  Nevertheless, computer networking and high-speed communications can never take the place of a solid curriculum, performance standards and personal responsibility among parents and their children.  No matter how much money the government spends on high-speed Internet access for poor students, there are deeper problems for some families that require much deeper solutions. For now, Mr Obama has the power of the executive pen to direct federal agencies in how to spend their allotted funding however, when that funding dries up, will anything have really changed?  For the sake of America's parents and schoolchildren, we certainly hope so. Sources:


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