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BaraAs part of his “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour,” President Barack Obama has traveled to North Carolina to announce a new digital education initiative that aims to give 99 percent of students access to high-speed Internet and wireless connectivity. Obama will deliver the announcement at Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina this afternoon, a school that has benefited greatly from the use of upgraded technology and digital learning.

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The program, “ConnectEd,” will essentially expand Internet use nationwide in nearly all K-12 schools within a five-year span.

The President will not require action from Congress on this plan but instead will reach out to Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The President will request that the FCC adjust its current “Schools and Libraries” or “E-Rate” program, which offers a discounted telecommunications rate for schools and libraries to grow their Internet infrastructure.

In a briefing by top senior administrative officials on Wednesday regarding the “ConnectED” plan, the necessity of the initiative was carefully explained.

An excerpt from the briefing transcript:

Mooresville, they’re leasing laptops at higher rates than a school should have to.  If you had 99 percent of schools having high-speed broadband or high-speed Internet within five years, as is the goal of this initiative, those school districts, those states would have so much more leverage and scale to negotiate better prices, significantly better prices for their students and their school, saving money while creating the ability for individual digital learning.

Secondly, when our innovators – when the amazing technological innovators of our country understand that there will now be a large new market of educational devices for young people across our country, their incentive to innovate, to create lower-cost educational devices that are geared less to social media and more to learning in the classroom, it will expand dramatically because the market will be so large.

Third, our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, likes to say that the average school buys textbooks on a seven-year cycle, even though we know every seven weeks, every seven months, there is a new and better way to teach biology or teach math or new inventions or learning.  When you have these new educational devices at reasonable cost, at lower connectivity, you are also creating a much greater market for the content for students to learn, for students to get additional tutoring, and for people to update materials, knowing that schools and school districts now have the capacity to bring that new learning or that new content in quickly, and not on a seven-year textbook cycle.

The officials at the briefing also mentioned that in South Korea, 100 percent of schools have high-speed Internet service available to its students.

By the year 2016, the country plans to eliminate textbooks altogether and rely on a strictly digital format.

The “E-Rate” program discounts are determined by a school district’s poverty rate and whether or not a school looking for services are in an urban or rural setting. The discounts are between 20 and 90 percent for the costs of eligible technology and service needs.

Obama started speaking about his new initiative today at 2:55 p.m. ET at Mooresville Middle School. Watch the event live here.


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