President Obama will visit Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi, Md., on Tuesday to discuss the progress being made toward the goal he proposed last year of connecting 99 percent of students to high-speed broadband -- aided by the Federal Communications Commission's discovery that it somehow had $2 billion to spare in unspent funds.
Obama is expected to announce that the private sector stepped up following last year’s proposal, pledging to commit over $750 million in products and services to schools across the country.
For example, Apple pledged $100 million to provide iPads and other products to students in disadvantaged schools. AT&T and Sprint also committed to providing connectivity for students in low-income areas over the next few years. Microsoft agreed to deeply discount its Windows operating systems to all public schools, and will provide 12 million free copies of Microsoft Office to qualifying low-income schools.
Meanwhile, the FCC would help start connecting 15,000 schools and more than 2 million students to broadband with the $2 billion allocated from the E-Rate program, which is funded by line-item charges on consumers' phone bills. According to the Washington Post, the program has been criticized over mismanagement, questionable benefits and funds that have gone unused from year to year.
Asked how the FCC had an additional $2 billion to spare, Gene Sperling, Obama's director of the National Economic Council, said the agency prioritized spending obligations. Other than that, Sperling said further questions should be directed to the agency.
Cecilia Muñoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council, couldn’t say whether the FCC’s $2 billion was just a down payment or whether a further commitment would be made by the agency.