Home' THE Journal : August 2012 Contents “I’m not going to lie to you,” Murray says. “ That wasn’t part
of our great master plan, but we were able to do it.”
And, although Quakertown was not part of the Learning
On-the-Go program, its students’ families have been able to
take advantage of a similar program called Internet Essentials
provided by local telecom provider Comcast.
As a requirement of the merger between NBC and Universal,
which was finally approved in January 2011, FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski insisted the new company’s telecom divi-
sion help provide broadband access to more people in a three-
pronged effort that was to include:
•Discount internet access to lower-income households with
school-age children in them
•Discounts on computer purchases
•A digital literacy program that would help those without
previous broadband access become familiar with it.
Its Internet Essentials program provides access for $9.95 a
month to those whose children qualify for the free and reduced
lunch programs. Comcast’s initiative is now being matched by
another one called Connect2Compete that is being organized
by a consortium of many of the nation’s largest telecom pro-
viders, in conjunction with a number of other private-sector
players, all with the intention of providing broadband access to
that 30 percent of American households that still don’t have it.
Internet Essentials and Connect2Compete are the vehicles
by which much of Learning On-the-Go’s pilot program is con-
necting students’ families. “They were not looking for new-
bies,” Harrington says, meaning one of the FCC’s goals was to
avoid creating any new bureaucracies to administer Learning
On-the-Go. As a result, there has been growing participation
by the private sector.
“ There definitely seems to be a consensus in the private
space,” he says. “They see the trend, the FCC sees it, the
schools see it. From my perspective, that’s an exciting thing.”
In the Public Interest
Internet Essentials’ discounts to families are also part of the
Kent School District’s effort to make a 1-to-1 program that
will put laptops in the hands of 10,000 students this year, but
technology experts in the suburban Seattle community found it
wasn’t enough to get the job done.
“ We had to find another way to skin that cat,” says Thuan
Nguyen, Kent’s CIO. “We have a very transient population.
The free and reduced lunch route didn’t work out for us.”
For a number of reasons, including the rough economy,
people move in and out of the area quickly. Also, local flood-
ing that caused people to lose their homes has been an issue
in recent years and the district is an area that many refugees
move to when they first come to the US before transitioning to
other parts of the country. Some of those families who would
otherwise qualify sometimes aren’t in their homes or apart-
ments long enough to have cable TV installed.
That didn’t stop Nguyen and Greg Whiteman, the district’s
director of technology integration. Thanks to what they con-
sider a generous community that has approved three major
property tax levies since 2000 to implement a substantial
technology program in its schools, they are on their way to a
1-to-1 laptop program that eventually could involve most of the
27,000 students in 40 schools.
Finding they were getting a relatively low penetration rate
with the discounted internet service program, Whiteman,
Nguyen, and their district colleagues began talks in Septem-
ber 2011 with a number of businesses and governmental
entities around the community to help them provide access in
The Kent School District is now making its wireless system
available in kiosks at local coffee shops and restaurants, shopping
malls, libraries, and the public areas of some apartment complex-
es. They are in talks to do the same now with national chains in
the area such as Starbucks, AMC Theatres, and Safeway.
“The areas we’re targeting are those with common areas
where kids can gather and not be a nuisance,” Whiteman says.
All of the same filters in place on school campuses are also in
place in the kiosks, limiting the possibility that nonstudents
might be interested in using the network as well.
Although occasionally rainy, the weather in Washington is
somewhat milder than in New York, so unlike Coleman in
New Rochelle who worries about students being out in inclem-
FEATURE | equitable access
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