Tech Companies Donate $750 Million to Obama’s Education Initiative

Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon are just a handful of the private companies contributing services and funds.

Pupils use tablets during courses in a classroom at the Leonard de Vinci 'connected' middle school in Saint-Brieuc, western France on September 12, 2013. The Leonard de Vinci school is one of the 23 middle schools in France to be connected to the internet and to be using new information technologies during courses.  
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Feb. 4, 2014, 1:02 a.m.

Ma­jor tech and tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions com­pan­ies are an­swer­ing the pres­id­ent’s call to con­nect 99 per­cent of U.S. schools with high-speed In­ter­net with­in the next five years by pledging more than $750 mil­lion in dona­tions. 

Pres­id­ent Obama will an­nounce Tues­day that Apple, Mi­crosoft, Sprint, and Ve­r­i­zon are just a hand­ful of the private com­pan­ies con­trib­ut­ing over $750 mil­lion worth of ser­vices and funds to schools through the White House’s Con­nec­tED ini­ti­at­ive.

Apple will pledge more than $100 mil­lion in iPads, Mac­Books, and oth­er ser­vices. Mi­crosoft will make 12 mil­lion cop­ies of its sig­na­ture Of­fice suite avail­able at no cost. Sprint will provide wire­less In­ter­net to 50,000 low-in­come stu­dents, and AT&T and Ve­r­i­zon are both com­mit­ting $100 mil­lion to the ini­ti­at­ive.

“These com­pan­ies have re­cog­nized the com­pel­ling na­tion­al need for us to have the high-speed broad­band that al­lows us to have the most mod­ern, most ef­fect­ive learn­ing classrooms in our coun­try where every child can learn at their desk and have a world of learn­ing at their fin­ger­tips,” Na­tion­al Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil Dir­ect­or Gene Sper­ling said on a press call Monday.

Obama’s state­ment fol­lows the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion’s an­nounce­ment Monday that it is doub­ling in­vest­ment in high-speed In­ter­net ac­cess for schools from $1 bil­lion to $2 bil­lion through E-Rate, a pro­gram es­tab­lished in 1996 that is fun­ded through fees on monthly phone bills.

Obama in­tro­duced the Con­nec­tED ini­ti­at­ive last sum­mer, and he re­it­er­ated his goal to im­prove tech­no­logy in U.S. schools dur­ing the State of the Uni­on ad­dress last week. Without Con­gress to stand in his way, it has the po­ten­tial to be­come one of the big­ger ac­com­plish­ments of his second term.

The edu­ca­tion ini­ti­at­ive could cost between $4 bil­lion and $6 bil­lion. Even with the in­fu­sion of fund­ing from the FCC and the private sec­tor, it’s un­clear where the rest of the fund­ing will come from without rais­ing fees on phone bills.

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