As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, $7.2 billion dollars is being allocated to expand broadband Internet access across the U.S. The dream is to make sure every home has a broadband connection, but even the Federal Communications Commission admits the $7 billion is not enough to wire everyone. Microsoft believes connecting schools, libraries and hospitals first will generate the quickest, most impactful and most equitable distribution of social benefits. Our Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Craig Mundie, called on the FCC to take this direction. Marc Berejka, Senior Director of Technology Policy and Strategy, reinforced our company’s position in a blog post here.

The fuel for our country’s economic recovery will be provided by innovation…and our future, in many respects, is in the hands (and minds) of students in our classrooms, universities and libraries.  Prioritizing broadband for schools and libraries will connect to the heart of our communities and help shift expectations and aspiration of the impact technology can have on reaching its potential for improving and enriching learning.

While the majority of schools have basic Internet access, it’s often limited, slow and not capable of handling the technology applications our administrators and educators need to ensure our students are prepared for the 21st century workplace and life.  As we continue to expand use of digital learning environments to deliver personal and adaptive experiences for our students, the need to ensure rich connectivity in and out of the classroom becomes paramount.  Digital natives have an expectation of an “always on” and “always connected” environment…and our commitment to deliver needs to address not only access everywhere…but access for ALL.

Digital curriculum, virtual classrooms, etc., will create opportunities for rich collaboration and enable our teachers to serve the needs of individual students.  These experiences and opportunities will be created by careful rigor, planning and holistic thinking….but supported by integrated and flexible technology and access to broadband.

As we embrace the Federal stimulus as a source of confidence and optimism…the need to start by resourcing our schools and libraries…to support our country’s greatest resource…our children…becomes clear.  This SETDA report provides more information on the state of broadband in our schools, key recommendations, and district, community and state models for broadband implementation.