Obama hooks up new school broadband plan

Summary:President Barack Obama has unveiled a new government partnership with the private sector worth nearly $3 billion to hook up an extra 20 million school kids to high-speed internet.

"In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools," United States President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, unveiling the latest prong of his "opportunity agenda" in a Washington suburb.

The program, a link-up with US firms including Verizon, Sprint, and Apple, fits into Obama's consistent push to improve education and technological skills needed to compete in an increasingly competitive global market.

But it is also Obama's latest attempt to show that with a "pen and a phone", he can wield presidential power to significant economic effect, even though Republicans in Congress are squelching much of his second-term agenda.

Under the program, the Federal Communications Commission will put down $2 billion to connect 20 million more students to wireless broadband in their schools.

The Department of Agriculture will come in with $10 million in grants to benefit rural schools.

The administration has also secured hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from top communications and internet companies.

Apple has pledged $100 million to buy iPads and MacBook computers for disadvantaged schools, AT&T will pay more than $100 million to offer internet connectivity to selected middle school students.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has pledged to offer steep discounts on the cost of its Windows operating system, and Sprint will come up with another $100 million to offer free wireless to 50,000 low-income high school students for four years.

Verizon will put up $100 million in cash to support the Obama program, known as ConnectED.

The White House says the new effort will bring America close to giving 99 percent of schoolchildren internet access within five years.

Topics: Broadband, Education, Government : US

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