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Gates, Zuckerberg Donated Combined $9 Million Fund for Internet Connection in Schools

By Julie S | Dec 05, 2013 10:32 AM EST

Gates, Zuckerberg Donated Combined $9 Million Fund for Internet Connection in Schools
Internet connection is one of the vital things needed in schools, but it is too costly to acquire one. (Photo : Reuters)

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have donated a joint amount of $9 million for the funding of Internet connections in schools.

Internet connection is one of the vital things needed in schools, but it is too costly to acquire one. Having high-speed Internet access would cost about $30,000 to $50,000 per school and running fiber-optics that would deliver the connection could cost tens of thousands per mile.

Last summer, U.S. President Barack Obama has set a five-year goal to enable 99 percent of students go online via high-speed Internet connections. The Federal Communications Commission also weighed variations to a program to boost internet connectivity in schools.

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To show their support to this initiative, on Wednesday, two of the most influential people in the technology industry –Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – pledged to boost efforts in putting high-speed Internet access in every school through donating $9 million to EducationSuperHighway, a non-profit organization based in San Francisco aiming to improve online connectivity in schools.

The money will be allocated to programs that will give technological skill to learning centers.

Zuckerberg told the Washington Post, "When schools and teachers have access to reliable Internet connections, students can discover new skills and ideas beyond the classroom."

Roughly 80 percent of schools already have Internet connection, however, according to Richard Culatta, director of education technology at the Education Department, the connection is either too sluggish or only secluded to areas like computer labs and administration offices. Sluggish connections can lead to slowed page responses or even to crashing.

Beyond this seemingly noble desire, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, questioned Gates' and Zuckerberg's intention saying, "So the question I have is, why are these foundations doing this now? Are they doing it because of the Common Core testing? Or, are they doing it because we want to actually help kids succeed," told the Washington Post.

Vicki Phillips, director of the College-Ready Education program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, however, said, "It's hard to imagine why anyone would question the intent of providing broadband access to students who desperately need it. It's just common sense, and we are proud to make this investment."

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