Dozens of tech CEOs are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide billions for Wi-Fi in schools and libraries in an upcoming vote.
“The message from America is clear, if our schools do not have the broadband they need, our students will not be able to compete in the global economy,” the CEOs said in a letter to FCC commissioners on Monday.
The group, which includes the CEOs of Adobe, Facebook, Dropbox, Netfliz and Intuit, has joined with non-profit EducationSuperHighway in support of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan for E-rate modernization, which asks for an update to schools’ antiquated computers and Internet service to provide 99% of American students with high-speed Internet access. In all, 41 CEOS are involved in the group.
The CEOs believe this to be the first step in providing students the education they need to thrive in today’s global economy.
EducationSuperHighway is pushing for the expansion of digital learning in every classroom. According to the group, 72% of schools today do not have the Internet access necessary to prepare students for the current job market.
The plan would allow for $5 billion in extra funding on top of the $2.4 billion annual budget for school and library technology. According to Kate Tummarello for political website The Hill, the group plans on obtaining $3 billion of the extra money through “eliminating inefficiencies in the program and phasing out non-Internet access services, including pagers.”
According to a report by the American Library Association, in 2009, 77 million Americans used a library computer or wireless network to access the Internet.
Opponents claim the suggested program will only benefit larger, urban schools, leaving rural schools in the dust. This is a worry in places like Kansas, where most school districts are small. According to Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran and FCC Comissioner Ajit Pai, schools in the state are already behind.
“The bad news is this federal program meant to close the digital divide is actually making it worse for rural schools,” they wrote in an op-ed in The Wichita Eagle. “A few commonsense reforms, including simplifying the application process and providing certainty to schools, could fix that.”
Schools in Washington D.C. receive three times the amount of funding for technology than those in Kansas. According to Julian Hattem for The Hill, Moran and Pai suggest a “student-centered” program where schools know whether or not they will receive funding prior to signing a contract.
“The time is now to provide America’s students with the bandwidth they so greatly need,” said Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com. “Chairman Wheeler’s plan to move swiftly to ensure schools have robust wireless access right away is an essential first step toward educating our children to compete in the global economy.”
The FCC will vote on the proposed plan at its monthly meeting on Friday.