From Friday’s inbox…
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President’s Plan Will Bring Broadband Access to
USDLA commends President Obama and his initiative to bring broadband access to all students. Last week, at Mooresville Middle School in North Carolina, President Obama announced his vision for achieving 21st century high-speed broadband connectivity for America’s classrooms. Under his “ConnectED” initiative, the FCC would modernize an existing program and expand access to high-speed Internet service to virtually every school in America, a plan which he characterized as “bringing our kids’ schools into the digital age.” The ultimate goal of the President’s vision is to bring high-speed broadband access to 99 percent of students within five years.
A fast, reliable broadband connection makes possible new learning experiences, educational enrichment, and distance learning opportunities. Modern Internet services can provide access to online advanced placement courses that can help “level the playing field” and reduce educational disparities that affect rural areas, because today these courses are currently not offered in a majority of rural schools . High-speed Internet service can deliver a variety of educational benefits and opportunities that can help motivate and stimulate students.
That’s why broadband has become an essential educational tool. A recent report by the Pew Research Center found that 92 percent of middle and high school teachers believe that Internet access has a “major impact” on their ability to access teaching materials and resources, and 76 percent said that they now require some level of homework completion online. Unfortunately, a 2011 FCC study confirms that today over 80 percent of schools and libraries find their current broadband service capacity and speeds inadequate.
Providing access to high-speed broadband to every American classroom and to each student is vital. After all, students are our nation’s future leaders, and as President Obama eloquently stated, broadband access is a learning tool that our children deserve. But our schools and libraries are far from the only places where this service is essential. High-speed broadband access is a critical tool for success for all families, communities, and small businesses across the country. This access delivers opportunities for education, job training, and job creation, as well as possibilities for economic stability, access to quality health care, and improved quality of life.
In this digital age, our nation’s economic growth and global leadership depends upon the availability of a robust next-generation telecommunications infrastructure that can deliver 21st century speeds, services, and capabilities to us all. Upgrading, modernizing, and expanding our country’s wireline and wireless broadband networks should be a top priority. Government can help accelerate the transition to these enhanced broadband networks by updating regulations, away from antiquated rules that governed the old voice-centric network. This would provide broadband providers with the certainty necessary to encourage investment and the rapid deployment of our nation’s next-generation broadband networks.
Similarly, for wireless, our government needs to diligently work to make more spectrum available by ensuring that the FCC spectrum auctions scheduled for 2014 are fair and open. Only an auction that invites all qualified bidders to have an equal opportunity to acquire the airwaves needed to expand their networks will succeed. These steps will fuel innovation and help U.S. carriers support important nationwide technology programs, including ConnectED.
It’s fitting that President Obama’s broadband access announcement was part of his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity” tour. High-speed broadband, both wireline and wireless, delivers vital opportunities. That’s why every person, family, community, hospital, school, and small business across the country ought to have access to this essential tool for success.