December 4, 2013: Libby A. Nelson, posting in Politico's Morning Education, reports: Silicon Valley non-profit EducationSuperHighway announced this morning that it's getting $9 million in backing from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's Startup:Education, the Gates Foundation and others to continue its work connecting K-12 public schools to high-speed broadband. The investment is emblematic of a larger movement. Tech executives and foundations are also putting their minds and their millions behind computer science and STEM initiatives, hoping to help schools make the transition to digital learning and build a more skilled, globally competitive workforce. "I really believe we're at a historic moment right now," said EducationSuperHighway CEO Evan Marwell, at left.
The announcement was made today in San Francisco, and the press release included this data:
72% of U.S. Schools Lack Needed Bandwidth
Over the last 12 months, 600,000 students, teachers and administrators have taken one minute to test their school’s Internet access as part of EducationSuperHighway’s National SchoolSpeedTest (www.schoolspeedtest.org). The results to date show that 72% of America’s public schools lack the broadband they need for digital learning. Twenty-six state departments of education are already participating in the free SchoolSpeedTest program and EducationSuperHighway hopes to run programs with the remaining states by the end of the school year. Whether or not a state department of education is participating, any member of a school community (teacher, student, administrator or parent) can test their school’s Internet access by running the one-minute test at www.schoolspeedtest.org.
Federal Policy Makers Modernizing K-12 Broadband Policy
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking action to connect 99% of America’s K-12 students to gigabit broadband and robust Wi-Fi. Key to these actions is the modernization of the FCC’s $2.4 billion per year E-rate program. E-rate has provided the funding to ensure that nearly all schools have access to the Internet, but needs to be updated to ensure the program can provide the gigabit speeds schools need to power media-rich digital content and web-based instruction.
Currently, the FCC is evaluating E-rate reform and seeking input for better use of these funds. EducationSuperHighway is advancing pragmatic solutions to modernize, expand and strengthen the successful E-rate program by focusing its mission on broadband; investing in upgrades to connect every school to fiber and every classroom to Wi-Fi; and increasing transparency and accountability to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
Libraries, meanwhile, made a national plea for the FCC to remember them in the E-rate discussions. As posted yesterday on Politico's Morning Education:
Libraries stressed their role as a portal for students who don’t have the Internet at home, and they said they’d like to expand their roles to provide continuing learning and career assistance. The FCC’s proceedings as it prepares to overhaul the program have mostly focused on schools, although libraries have been a big beneficiary of E-Rate since 1996, almost quadrupling the number of public libraries offering connectivity. “In the digital age, libraries are about more than just borrowing books,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said. “They have become an important community hub for expanded access to technology.”