Obama pushes for higher speed broadband in schools

The goal is for 100Mbps to 1Gbps to 99 percent of students within five years

U.S. President Barack Obama wants the nation's students to have access to faster broadband in their schools and libraries.

Obama on Thursday announced an initiative, called ConnectED, with the goal of bringing 100Mbps to 1Gbps broadband connections to 99 percent of students, through schools and libraries, within five years.

"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 during a speech at a North Carolina middle school. "So today, 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 asked the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to revamp its existing E-Rate program, focused on wiring schools and libraries, to push faster wired and mobile broadband into the same buildings.

ConnectED will also use existing federal funding to train teachers in technology education, and it will allow schools to band together to get volume purchasing deals on computing devices.

ConnectED earned praise from some U.S. lawmakers and Internet providers.

"I wholeheartedly support the president's call to modernize the E-Rate program in order to bring faster broadband speeds to our nation's schools and libraries," Representative Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat, said in a statement. "To enable a 21st century digital classroom, supported by high-definition video, cloud-based services and other advanced applications, we need bandwidth --- and lots of it."

Comcast also supports Obama's goals, said Sena Fitzmaurice, the company's vice president of government communications.

"We applaud the president for spotlighting the critical importance of robust broadband connections in schools with the launch of the ConnectED initiative," she said in an email. "This program will build on the substantial work by the FCC and the cable industry to bring high-speed Internet access to all Americans -- in schools, in libraries, and also in their homes because Internet connectivity at schools must be paired with access at home to gain the full educational benefits of the Internet."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags telecommunicationAnna EshoocomcastU.S. Federal Communications CommissionBarack ObamagovernmentSena Fitzmauricebroadband

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