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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Left unsaid

He almost said it.  This morning the Washington Post ran an article saying that President Obama would be making a speech this afternoon announcing a new initiative to bring high-speed Internet connections to 99% of schools within five years.  According to the article, Presidential aides said Obama would "call on the Federal Communications Commission to use its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal."  The White House says President Obama "[c]alls on FCC to leverage E-Rate program to have 99 percent of students connected within 5 years."

(Oh, yeah! Both the White House and the Post spell "E-Rate" with a capital "R"!  OK, so the NY Times uses a small "r," but the Times doesn't have any funnies, so it's not a real newspaper.)

As it happens, I'm in DC for the Spring E-mpa® meeting, so I found myself in a room full of the only other people in the world who would drop everything to hang on the Prez's every word.  I wanted to get a keg and play "E-Rate Drain," drinking every time the President said "E-Rate."  Good thing we didn't bother, because he never said "E-Rate" (and yes, I am confident the President would have pronounced "E-Rate" with a capital "R").

This seems like good news for the E-Rate.  The Times article says that "the administration wants to improve the efficiency of the current program, and for telephone customers to pay up to $5 a year extra" per year.  More money is good, but if we're going to fund fiber to every school building and a wireless network inside each school, $5/phone line isn't going to go far.  And of course, I have the niggling worry that mission creep could kill the program.

My favorite part of the proposal?  It's very clear on how students are to be connected: we're talking about wireless LANs connected to fiber between buildings, not the wasteful purchase of a cell phone data plan for each student.

A good day for the E-Rate, but I sure would have liked to hear the Prez actually say the word "E-Rate."

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