POLITICS: PennAve

Obama will trumpet 'unprecedented' effort to boost schools' digital technology

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Politics,White House,Education,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,PennAve,Technology,FCC

President Obama Tuesday will tout a new partnership between the White House and major tech companies to bring high-speed Internet and other new technologies to public schools, announcing $750 million in pledges from private firms for the effort.

The president will outline funding commitments from companies like Apple, AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon, the next step in a State of the Union pledge to connect nearly every school to high-speed Internet and bolster digital learning environments.

Under the education initiative, the Federal Communications Commission will also spend $2 billion to connect 20 million more students to wireless technologies. The White House said the FCC was shifting more funding to its E-Rate program but did not provide further specifics about the new spending.

Obama will detail the program at an event Tuesday in Adelphi, Md.

Previewing the speech for reporters, Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling called the initiative an “unprecedented private sector commitment to a national education goal.”

The education push represents the latest attempt by the White House to flex Obama's executive muscle, highlighting ways Obama can enact his agenda without turning to Congress.

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

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

“The U.S. is falling behind many of our international competitors,” said Cecilia Muñoz, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council.

“High-speed broadband is not available for millions of our students,” she added.

The president first pushed for such financial assistance in his 2013 State of the Union address.

“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,” Obama said last year.

The White House last week announced a similar partnership with private companies to limit discrimination against the long-term unemployed.

The Obama administration estimates that less than 30 percent of schools have the types of broadband technology needed to most effectively aid students.

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