President announces new ConnectEd digital education initiative in Mooresville

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MOORESVILLE, N.C. — President Obama visited Mooresville Middle on Thursday to discuss his ConnectEd initiative.

At a speech in a high-tech middle school in Mooresville, North Carolina, Obama ordered federal agencies to earmark funds for providing broadband and wireless access to 99% of U.S. public schools in the next five years, according to senior administration officials. The president is tasking the Federal Communication Commission with spearheading the project, and is also asking the FCC to fund high-speed connections at libraries.

“We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology,” Obama said in a written statement before his stop in Mooresville.

“In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, shouldn’t we have it in our schools? Imagine educators spending fewer hours teaching to a test, and more time helping kids learn in new and innovative ways,” President Obama said.

At least one FCC member has alreasdy signaled she’s on board with the effort.

“President Obama’s ConnectED initiative recognizes that access to adequate broadband capacity to our schools and libraries is not a luxury — it’s a necessity for America’s next generation of students to be able to compete …,” FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who was nominated by Obama, said in a written statement. “We need to protect what we have done, build on it, and put it on a course to provide higher speeds and greater opportunities in the days ahead. This initiative is an exciting effort that has my wholehearted and enthusiastic support.”

“Imagine a young boy with a chronic illness that confines him to his home able to join his classmates for every lesson,” said President Obama.

“I’m going to keep fighting with everything I’ve got to build a better future for our young people,” President Obama said.

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.

According to an administration fact sheet, the average American school has slower Internet connections than most homes, and fewer than 20% of educators say their school’s Web access meets their teaching needs.

The White House says the initiative will particularly benefit rural schools, and rural communities in general, where high-speed Web access still lags behind urban and suburban areas.

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