President Barack Obama has secured commitments from U.S. companies worth about $750 million to get more students connected to high-speed Internet.
AT&T, Sprint, Apple and Microsoft are among the companies pitching in. Obama was to announce the commitments Tuesday at a middle school in the Maryland suburbs near Washington.
The Federal Communications Commission plans to devote $2 billion generated from service fees to connecting 20 million students. It’s all part of Obama’s goal to get 99 percent of American students connected within five years.
The White House says Apple is pledging $100 million in iPads, computers and other tools. AT&T and Sprint are contributing free wireless service. And Microsoft is making Windows available at a discounted price and offering 12 million free copies of Microsoft Office software.
Obama plans to highlight the commitments during a visit today to Buck Lodge Middle School in the Washington suburb of Adelphi, Maryland, White House officials said.
“The private sector has answered the president’s call,” National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said of the companies’ participation in Obama’s “ConnectED” program.
The president’s aides framed the new partnership with the companies as part of the Obama’s vow to use executive authority and lobbying groups with stakes in the issue to bypass Congress to advance his goals. In recent days, he has announced an increase in the minimum wage paid to some federal contractors, a new retirement-account plan for workers, and an agreement from companies to make it easier for the long-term unemployed to find work.
Microsoft’s pledge, to provide deep discounts on the price of its Windows operating system for public schools and 12 million free copies of its popular Office software for certain qualifying schools, is one of the most valuable, Sperling said on a conference call last night. Microsoft said its offer of subsidized hardware and software would save schools more than $1 billion, according to a company news release distributed by the White House.
Apple is kicking in $100 million to disadvantaged schools in the form of iPads, MacBooks and other products. AT&T Inc. and Verizon also promised $100 million, with the former providing mobile broadband services and the latter contributing money and in-kind services to expand digital learning initiatives, the White House said in a fact sheet.
Sprint plans to provide wireless service for as many as 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, according to the White House. Autodesk Inc., which provides engineering and design software, and technology publication company O’Reilly Media Inc. also made pledges to the program.
Obama first announced the goal of connecting 99 percent of American students to high-speed Internet service within the next five years last June.
Cecilia Munoz, the chairwoman of Obama’s Domestic Policy Council, said the introduction of technology to classrooms combats a serious challenge in education: “boredom.”
“We think good education technology can really advance great teaching,” Munoz said on the conference call.
Sperling said the companies “have recognized the compelling national need” for children to have “a world of learning at their fingertips.”
An existing program known as E-Rate, which helps pay for connections through a tax on a portion of subscribers’ telephone bills, provides $2.4 billion annually and has connected virtually all U.S. schools and libraries to basic Internet, according to the FCC.
The agency said Monday it would invest an additional $2 billion over the next two years to connect 20 million students in at least 15,000 schools to high-speed Internet connections.