The same day word leaked that the chair of the Federal Communications Commission wants to push for more Wi-Fi in U.S. schools, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory was in Washington asking government leaders for the same thing.
McCrory, along with state Chief Information Officer Chris Estes, met with FCC leaders to request funding for North Carolina’s initiative to provide Wi-Fi access to every K-12 classroom in the state.
He then took to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Small Business Summitt, where he told the audience technology is a key to providing a well trained workforce that will attract new business to North Carolina and helping existing businesses excel in today’s global markets.
“If we are to produce the workforce in high-demand fields, we must equip our classrooms with high speed Internet,” McCrory said.“ Broadband is no longer a luxury. It’s part of a school’s infrastructure and is needed just as much as water and electricity.”
For its part, the FCC seems to already be on the same page as North Carolina. The New York Times reported earlier this week that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler intends to discuss school Wi-Fi access with the agency’s commissioners at a July 11 open meeting.
The goal is to find funding for schools to add wireless Internet in classrooms, something that will slightly alter the goal of E-Rate, which has focused on simply getting high-speed broadband into the school and not focused on what happens once it gets there.
In meeting with the FCC, McCrory asked the FCC to designate E-Rate funding, which assists states with providing internet access to schools, to help the state provide next-generation wireless broadband connections to every classroom and student and make North Carolina an e-learning role model for the rest of the country.
North Carolina is a national leader in extending broadband access to public schools, as every K-12 school in the state is served by high-speed internet connections and 98 percent are served by dedicated fiber.
“It’s no longer sufficient to run Internet access to a few computers. Digital learning requires us to deliver Wi-Fi access to each student’s desk,” Estes said. “I applaud the governor’s commitment to providing the necessary infrastructure to enable one-on-one digital learning opportunities for each student in North Carolina.”
Job announcements from companies including Cisco, MetLife, Citrix and Red Hat underscore North Carolina’s need to prepare students for highly-skilled, high-paying technology jobs. The first bill Gov. McCrory signed bolstered that effort by supporting the transition from textbooks to digital learning by 2017.