Policy: Technology

Obama: Coffee shops shouldn't have better Internet than schools

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Politics,White House,Maryland,Education,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,PennAve,Technology,FCC,State of the Union

President Obama, outlining his push Tuesday to bring high-speed Internet access to more U.S. schools, said Americans should demand the same level of technology in learning facilities as they do in coffee shops.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools,” Obama said in Adelphi, Md., highlighting $750 million in new commitments from private companies to put digital learning labs in schools.

Under his plan, the Federal Communications Commission will also spend $2 billion to connect 20 million students to wireless technologies. Obama did not get into the details of the new spending, but White House officials have said funds will be shifted into the FCC's E-Rate program.

“It won't require a single piece of legislation from Congress. It won't add a dime to the deficit,” Obama insisted.

The sales pitch continues the central theme of Obama's State of the Union address: that he will bypass Congress whenever possible to implement his agenda.

As part of the “ConnectEd” program, Apple is pledging $100 million in iPads, MacBooks and other products for disadvantaged schools; AT&T is committing another $100 million to give middle-school students free Internet connectivity for three years; and Microsoft is offering deeply discounted prices on its operating system to all U.S. schools.

Sprint will also give free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students, and Verizon is pledging $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments.

In Maryland, Obama lamented that just 30 percent of American schools have high-speed broadband connections. In comparison, he said, South Korean schools employ such technology universally in institutions of learning.

“We shouldn’t give that kind of competitive advantage over to over countries,” Obama said, adding, “I’m gonna act.”

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