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Obama Uses Press Event to Tout 'ConnectEd' Program

Despite the gridlock plaguing Washington, President Barack Obama predicted that his digital education plan will move forward in 2014 with or without help from federal lawmakers.

"Even when Congress doesn't move on things they should move on, there are a whole bunch of things that we're still doing," he said during his last press conference of the year, held  Friday in the White House briefing room. "So we don't always get attention for it, but the ConnectED program that we announced, where we're going to be initiating wireless capacity in every classroom in America, will make a huge difference for kids all across this country and for teachers," 

Obama's ConnectEd proposal, which he announced in June, calls for providing virtually all American students with "next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless in their schools and libraries," as well as provide technology training for teachers and promote personalized education software and devices. 

The president's plan specifically proposes changes to the federal E-rate program, which provides  supports technology services and connectivity in public schools and libraries, particularly in disadvantaged communities.  Relying on funding from small fees on telephone bills, the program generates about $2.4 billion a year.

Obama has asked the Federal Communications Commission to consider rechanneling and increasing funding through the program, with the goal of giving 99 percent of the nation's schools access to high-speed broadband and wireless Web connections within five years.

The Federal Communication Commission, which oversees the E-rate, accepted comments this fall on a proposed overhaul of the program. The agency has not specified public timeline for its decision. 

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