Americans excited about high-tech schools got a shout-out in President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday. Those enraged about the National Security Agency's surveillance practices were left with less.
Obama announced a step forward in his proposal to improve Internet access in schools on Tuesday: Actions by the Federal Communications Commission and tech companies — including Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon — will bring high-speed broadband Internet to more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, Obama said.
The issue is one of the few domestic initiatives that Obama can achieve without congressional support. The FCC already pays for Internet access in schools and libraries through a program called "E-Rate" that is funded by fees on monthly phone bills. Last year, Obama called on the agency to dramatically expand the program to provide high-speed Internet to 99 percent of all students. The agency is still conducting a regulatory review of whether to expand E-Rate, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Tuesday he will use "business-like management practices" to make the existing funds go farther this year. The White House said it will have more details about the philanthropic commitments from the tech companies in the coming weeks.