Last night, in his annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama singled out the FCC’s ongoing E-rate program reform proceeding as a prominent element of his education initiatives for 2014. The President first heralded his ConnectED initiative to “connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years,” and then added: “Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.” Further announcements are expected from the White House are expected in the coming days.
Immediately after the President’s announcement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued this statement: “Harnessing the power of digital technology is central to improving our education system and our global competitiveness. In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive. The Federal Communications Commission shares the President’s commitment to seizing the opportunities of digital learning, which is why we’ve already launched an effort to modernize our successful E-Rate program—the nation’s largest education technology program. By applying business-like management practices to E-Rate, we can take steps this year that will make existing funds go farther to significantly increase our investment in high-speed broadband connectivity for schools and libraries for the benefit of our students and teachers. Together, with my fellow Commissioners, Congress, educators and other stakeholders, we can ensure that all of America’s students get a 21st-century education.”