Gates, Zuckerberg Show Financial Support For EducationSuperhighway
December 5, 2013

Gates, Zuckerberg Show Financial Support For EducationSuperHighway

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

While many teachers probably think some students spend too much time on social media sites such as Facebook, the social network’s founder is among several philanthropists who have pledged millions that could help bring the Internet to public school classrooms across America.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are among those who have pledged millions to the San Francisco-based nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. It was reported on Wednesday that over the next two years Zuckerberg will give $3 million, while Gates has promised to give another $2 million. A group of other, smaller foundations has also stepped up and pledged an additional $4 million to the organization, bring the total to $9 million pledged for EducationSuperHighway.

“Game changing technologies are transforming teaching and learning, but over 40 million students are being left behind without the Internet access and Wi-Fi they need to take full advantage of digital learning.,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway, via a statement. “If we want our children to be competitive in the global knowledge economy, we must upgrade the Internet infrastructure in America’s public schools.”of supplying at least 100Mb/second worth of broadband bandwidth to the 70 percent of American public schools that currently lack it by 2020. As the group has noted, currently some 40 million of the nation’s students now rely on the equivalent of an old dial-up cable modem for Internet access.

Zuckerberg, who is a Harvard dropout, has expressed an interest in providing future students with the skills required to create the next big thing.

“When schools and teachers have access to reliable Internet connections, students can discover new skills and ideas beyond the classroom," said Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. “The future of our economy and society depend largely on the next generation using and building new online tools and services, and I’m glad to support EducationSuperHighway’s work.”

Schools can register via the EducationSuperHighway website and take a simple network speed test, which to date more than 600,000 teachers, students and administrators have taken. It is from those results that it was found that at present more than 70 percent of schools currently lack the broadband that students need today.

Marwell launched EducationSuperHighway in January of 2012 after a meeting with the White House.

“I was at a meeting in the White House with Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, with 15 Silicon Valley CEOs,” he told Peter Cohan of Forbes in an interview. “I talked about how the typical school does not have enough Internet bandwidth and got support for the mission of upgrading Internet access in every public school.”

Marwell added one hurdle faced by schools is that many are now paying too much per megabit per month, and that it is government policy that lacks sufficient ambition required to address this issue. Changing the policy could be the biggest hurdle the group faces.

“In 1996, the FCC created its E-Rate Program that spend $2.4 billion a year to get schools online,” Marwell added. “Between 1996 and 2004, the percent of schools online went from 15 percent to 94 percent. But the schools do not have enough bandwidth — they need 100 Mb/second and have only 10 to 20 Mb/s. By 2017, they will need 1 Gb/s.”

The EducationSuperHighway’s vision however is actually now aligned with government agencies including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is working with the White House to connect up to 99 percent of America’s K-12 students to gigabit broadband and even Wi-Fi.

As a result, the FCC is now evaluating an E-Rate reform while seeking input for better use of taxpayer funds.

“We’re thrilled that the business and education communities share our vision for a high-speed future for our K-12 students. These strategic investments will accelerate our ability to raise awareness, reform policy and assist school districts with upgrades,” added Jonathan Kaplan, EducationSuperHighway’s Board Chairman.