updated 12:43 am EST, Wed January 29, 2014
Four firms singled out for supporting educational high-speed Internet deployment
[Updated with Apple statement] As part of his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama thanked four tech firms -- including Apple, Microsoft, Verizon and Sprint -- for their involvement and support of his and the FCC's ConnectED high-tech initiative, which aims to level the playing field for poorer districts by providing high-speed Internet access to all of America's schools and students. Obama described the participation as a "down payment" on connecting schools and students over the next three years.
The President said that the firms will help the government connect "more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years -- without adding a dime to the deficit," addressing concerns from the opposition party (though in fact the deficit has dropped precipitously over the past few years). Details of the companies' philanthropic donations and support will be detailed in the coming weeks, according to a fact sheet provided by the administration.
[Update] Apple has issued a statement following their mention during the State of the Union speech. "We are proud to join President Obama in this historic initiative to transform America's schools," the company said. "We have pledged to contribute MacBooks, iPads, software and our expertise to support the ConnectED project. We look forward to announcing more details with the White House soon."
As part of the ConnectED program, public schools and libraries can qualify for a subsidized "E-rate" that allows for high-speed Internet connections, provided by local carriers or ISPs at a reduced rate or free depending on the financial status of the district and institution. The program, developed by the Federal Communication Commission, will be overseen by Congress and the FCC.