FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama Disses Digital Promise to U.S. Kids

by DAVID ROSEN

President Obama recently began a new economic offensive, a wake-up call about the Great Recession’s sputtering recovery and, in particular, the growing inequality among Americans.  As with his comments following the shameful decision in the Zimmerman case, the President — and his administration — periodically waves the flag about a serious social issue but does very little to serious address it.  Nothing better illustrates this phenomenon then his well meaning if spineless comments about bringing broadband Internet communications to all American schools and libraries.

Visiting the Mooresville (NC) Middle School on June 6th, the President declared:  “In an age when the world’s information is just a click away, it demands that we bring our schools and libraries into the 21st century. …  We can’t be stuck in the 19th century.”

Sadly, if only we were in the 19th century, the U.S. would be at the beginning of its ascendency, the nation’s the infrastructure that sustained long-term growth was being put into place.  The transcontinental railroad system was being laid – the 1st spike driven while the country was fighting the Civil War.  Almost a century ago, in 1914, Pres. Teddy Roosevelt placed one of the first coast-to-coasts telephone calls.  The “American Century” was being established – and now it is over.

The current “crisis” of broadband Internet in the nation’s schools is long in coming.  In fact, since the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, every preceding administration (and particularly the FCC) has colluded with private telecom and cable companies to limit the broadband upgrading of the nation’s communications infrastructure.  It is one example of why the U.S. has become a 2nd-rate communications nation.

* * *

At his Mooresville address, the president called for every school not simply to be connected to the Internet, but reach 99 percent of students and libraries with high-speed wired and/or wireless broadband at data rates of no less than 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and 1 Gbps by 2018.

The federal program to bring broadband to schools and libraries is known as ConnectED and is backed by the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).  The ConnectED is funded through a program known as the E-Rate.  It was established in 1997 and has helped increase the number of classrooms connected to the Internet from 14 percent to 97 percent.

However, as FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recently noted, “The problem now is not connection, its capacity.”  Current, more then 80 percent of the nation’s educators believe that the Internet connections at their schools do not meet their teaching needs.  In addition, neither the president nor the White House provided a detailed plan as to how the U.S. is to achieve this lofty goal. One can only assume that this program will be taken up — or not! — by the soon-to-be-confirmed new head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler.

According to the American Library Association, in 2012, 89 percent of nation’s nearly 17,000 public libraries provided Wi-Fi access, and about three-quarters of these reported an increase in the use of their Wi-Fi.  Many libraries keep their Wi-Fi signal on 24/7 and are witnessing an increase in what is known as “parking lot” users, people who don’t have Internet access at home and use a local library’s free Wi-Fi connectivity at off-hours from a near-by parking lot or other venue.  American’s need to be connected otherwise they’ll be 2nd-class citizens.

As Com. Rosenworcel acknowledged, “year-in and year-out, the demand for E-Rate dollars is double the amount the Commission [FCC] makes available ….”   E-Rate dollars – and we’re speaking of billions of dollars – come from the Universal Service Fund (USF) that adds around 15 percent to your communications bill for all interstate services, whether long distance, wireless services and parts of the local bill.  It is one of the grand tax scams, no wonder it’s often called the Universal Slush Fund.

The USF was initally designed to ensure that all Americans have phone service and to pay for schools and libraries to get services.  The largest portion of the fund is called the “high-cost” fund and goes directly to phone and cable companies offering service in rural areas.   It is seen by as a slush fund riddled with fraud.  It is imposed without provisions for an audit to determine the total amont of money collected by the phone company.  According to one estimate, the E-Rate has absorbed between 26 and 40 percent of USF funds “and the program has doled out more than $25 billion since its inception in 1998.”

Cable companies have received subsidies from the FCC through what is known as the Social Contract to “complete certain upgrades and improvements.”  For example, Comcast agreed to provide free modems and online service to 4,000 public and private elementary and high schools and up to 250 public libraries.  In return, Comcast was permitted to create “product tiers in those systems which had not been previously granted comparable tier flexibility.”  Sadly, there appears to be no FCC report as to whether Comcast met these system upgrade requirements.

* * *

One of the little reported ironies of the president’s Mooresville address was that Time Warner Cable, one of North Carolina’s leading ISPs, was a major backer of a bill in the state legislature (as well as in South Carolina) to restrict meaningful competition.  The bill is designed to ban or restrict localities from deploying municipal broadband services, thus challenging private telecoms.  In addition, it was the slowest cable operators to offer what’s known as “DOCSIS 3.0” – for Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification – permitting high-speed data to run over a conventional coaxial cable line.

Over the last three decades, a new economic and social order has remade the nation.  Reagan brought Thatcherism to America, promoting privatization through government collusion with private corporations.  This tendency was consolidated under Clinton, who facilitated the dominance of finance capital.  Bush-II squandered the nation’s wealth with off-the-books illegal wars and the growing tyranny of the security state.  Obama has adopted a thumb-in-the-dyke strategy, promoting a corporatist status quo while holding back the worst excess of corporate greed.

Today, the U.S. is in the midst of a great restructuring, being recast amidst a national and global economic and social reordering.  The long drawn out recession has been marked by unwinnable wars, high corporate profits, a stagnant job market and growing economic inequality.  They are symptoms of this great restructuring.  So too is the inability to deliver Internet broadband services to the nation’s schools and libraries.  Sadly, one more Obama promise will likely not to be kept.

David Rosen writes the “Media Current” column for Filmmaker and regularly contributes to AlterNet, Huffington Post and the Brooklyn Rail. Check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com; he can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net

More articles by:

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail