Microsoft, Apple, and Verizon Pledge To Support Obama's Internet Plan in Schools

At Buck Lodge Middle School in Maryland Tuesday, President Obama announced he's secured $750 million in funding from Big Tech companies to help boost Internet access for schoolchildren as part of his ConnectED initiative. The new update on the pledge comes six days after his hint in his State of the Union address, in which he pledged to "redesign high school" — without costing taxpayers additional money. Apple has pledged 100 million laptops and iPads (Macaddicts start young, after all), and Microsoft has pledged12 million free copies of Microsoft Office, and discounted Windows software. Another $350 million will be given in the form of Autodesk engineering software and O'Reilly media products. AT&T and Sprint will be donating free wireless internet.

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years. Tonight I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.

Education is the most important investment we can make for our collective future,” said Judson Althoff, president of Microsoft North America. “With this new Microsoft education offer, we are heeding the president’s challenge to ensure all students have access to the technology devices and services they need to succeed.”

The next step in Obama's plan, as outlined in the State of the Union address, is for the Federal Communications Commission to donate their pledged $2 billion from service fees (taken monthly from phone bills) to connect 20 million students with better internet access in 15,000 schools and libraries.

"The vision was always with the support of the FCC and moving forward on [the president's] vision that it would be the type of educational challenge that would take a village, and the village would respond," White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said.

The middle school Obama's made the announcement at is an example of what might be considered a "model" school under his initiative: The students there all use tablets for lessons already.

Only 20 percent of American students have high-speed internet access — compared with practically every student in South Korea (which, incidentally, is scoring at the top of world achievement tests while the U.S. is, um, not).

"What this really does is give us the potential to revolutionize how teaching and learning happen in the classroom," said Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.