Obama wants to transform U.S. schools through faster Internet

Thu Jun 6, 2013 3:42pm EDT
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By Steve Holland

MOORESVILLE, North Carolina (Reuters) - President Barack Obama directed his government on Thursday to begin a process to give 99 percent of American students high-speed internet connections within five years.

"In a country where we expect free Wifi with our coffee, why can't we expect that in our schools?" he told students at a middle school in Mooresville.

Obama ordered the Federal Communications Commission to start work on connecting more school classrooms and libraries with high-speed broadband in five years.

The goal is to help improve education for students and make them better prepared for jobs.

"At a moment when the rest of the world is trying to out-educate us, we've got to make sure that our young people, all you guys, have every tool you need," he said.

Obama chose the Mooresville school for his event to make a point: It has improved test scores and graduation rates through digital learning, an approach favored in countries like South Korea, which is phasing out printed textbooks by 2016.

Obama's plan does not need approval from Congress. Instead, the Federal Communications Commission would make changes to its E-Rate program, a $2.3 billion-per-year-subsidy that allows schools and libraries to get discounted rates for internet service.

Obama, who has been stymied in getting many of his priorities through a divided Congress, said the best news about this plan is "none of this requires an act of Congress."   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks with students in the computer lab at Bluestone High School in Skipwith, Virginia, October 18, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed