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Obama launches high-speed Internet program for all schools

More than 80 percent of educators say the Internet connection at their schools is too slow to meet their needs -- that's why the president plans to bring broadband to 99 percent of all students.

The White House plans to bring high-speed Internet to 99 percent of all U.S. students. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

In 2011, Loris Elementary School in Loris, S.C., was ranked 41st in the state among grammar schools with similar demographics. By 2012, it had risen to 19th.

What happened? According to the White House: technology.

Many of the students at Loris Elementary School are from low-income families that don't have the means to give their children all of today's high-tech devices, according to the Obama administration. That's why in 2012 the school decided to introduce a technology blended learning program complete with laptops, software, and Internet access. It's apparently made a difference.

President Barack Obama is convinced that if all schools worked more technology into their curriculum, they would also excel. That's why he announced on Thursday a new initiative (PDF) to bring high-speed Internet access to 99 percent of all of the country's K-12 students within the next five years.

"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," Obama said in a statement. "So today, I'm issuing a new challenge for America -- one that families, businesses, school districts, and the federal government can rally around together -- to connect virtually every student in America's classrooms to high-speed broadband Internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it."

Dubbed ConnectED, the program aims to get all classrooms equipped with Internet access that has speeds of at least 100Mbps, with a target goal of 1Gbps. The initiative will also provide teachers with training on how to use more technology in their curriculum. ConnectED plans to especially focus on rural schools where Internet access can be sparse.

The majority of schools in the U.S. already have Internet access, but it can be extremely slow. According to the White House, fewer than 20 percent of teachers say their school's Internet connections are fast enough to be used sufficiently.

No Congressional action is required for ConnectED to go into effect, but the Federal Communications Commission will have to cooperate by leveraging its E-Rate program and provide more discounts to schools on Internet costs.