WASHINGTON, June 6 (UPI) -- President Obama Thursday unveiled ConnectED, a plan to link 99 percent of America's students to the Internet via high-speed connections within five years.
Obama also called on the Federal Communications Commission to modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal, the White House said in a release.
Obama, calling on businesses, states, districts, schools and communities to support his vision, also directed the federal government to make better use of existing funds to get Internet connectivity and educational technology into classrooms and teachers trained on its advantages.
"Today, the average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, even though obviously there are 200 times as many people at school as there are at home. Only around 20 percent of our students have access to true high-speed Internet in their classroom," Obama told students, teachers and administrators in announcing the program at Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, N.C.
"By comparison, South Korea has 100 percent of its kids with high-speed Internet. We've got 20 percent; South Korea 100 percent. In countries where -- in a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, why shouldn't we have it in our schools? Why wouldn't we have it available for our children's education?"
The initiative does not require congressional action, the White House said.
"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," Obama said. "So today, I'm issuing a new challenge for America -- one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together -- to connect virtually every student in America's classrooms to high-speed broadband Internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it."
Millions of students now lack high-speed broadband access and less than 20 percent of educators say their school's Internet connection meets their teaching needs, the White House said.
The White House said ConnectED will bring high-speed Internet within students' reach, particularly benefiting rural communities that typically lag in connectivity.