Obama touts ConnectED Initiative to Bring High Speed Internet to Schools

The goal of ConnectEd: connect 99% of America’s public schools to high speed Internet in 5 years.  The Obama administration hopes that accomplishing this feat will enable schools and teachers to take advantage of educational technology and software that will allow for more rapid evaluation of student progress. Furthermore, the administration’s plan, based on elements of NCLB, includes provisions to train teachers in the use of new media and technology so that teachers can take full advantage of the increased connectivity.

In his June 6 speech in Mooresville, North Carolina (a district noted for its success in bringing computer and Internet access to students) announcing the program, Obama said, “In an age when the world’s information is a just click away, it demands that we bring our schools and libraries into the twenty-first century. We can’t be stuck in the nineteenth century when we’re living in a twenty-first-century economy.”

Many schools already have excellent Internet access, but this is not universal, particularly for rural schools and districts. Only one-fifth of educators say their school’s Internet connection can support their lesson plans. Furthermore, because schools have 200 times the number of Internet users as an average home, high speed Internet is crucial for schools.

Even though there have been criticisms of the E-Rate program which was designed to bring cheaper Internet access to schools and libraries, the White House hopes to expand the FCC’s E-Rate program to give schools high-speed Internet and computer access. Officials estimate that over a limited period of time, ConnectED could cost an additional 40 cents per month, or $5 a year, on home phone bills.

Obama said that only about 20 percent of U.S. students have access to true high-speed Internet in their classrooms, far below countries like South Korea where 100 percent of students have high-speed Internet. “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?” Obama asked.

Following is a link to the White House’s fact sheet on ConnectED: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/connected_fact_sheet.pdf and a White House blog post about the initiative: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/06/06/what-connected