Duncan urges cable industry to help close digital divide in U.S. schools

Secretary of education says 'history will look back on this moment' and judge industry
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WASHINGTON, D.C.-- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan charged the cable industry with providing more bandwidth and quality content to America's schools at the closing general session of The Cable Show.

Arne Duncan

Duncan addressed the need for increased broadband in schools, saying the government recommends a school should have approximately 100 Mbps with the ability to reach 1 Gbps through fiberoptics.

"Today, the honest truth, the brutal truth, is that the typical school is nowhere near that, and our competitors are far ahead of us," Duncan said, noting that only about 20 percent of U.S. schools have access to broadband.

"We are denying our teachers and students the tools they need to be successful," Duncan added. "That is educationally unsound and it's morally unacceptable ... as a country, we are not keeping up."

The secretary of state also linked technology to the success of higher education, noting the United States had dropped from first to 14th place in the ranking of countries with the highest college graduation rates.

"In a knowledge-based, globally-dependent economy, that's a job killer," Duncan said. "The status quo is bad for children, bad for families, bad for communities and ultimately bad for our nation's economy."

Duncan urged the cable industry to provide more and better broadband for schools so students can be rigorously tested and evaluated. He referenced President Obama's ConnectED initiative, which aims to bring broadband to 99 percent of U.S. students in five years.

"To give assessments that really measure critical thinking and 21st Century skills, most schools will require bandwidth that they don't have right now," he explained. "I would ask for your help and ask all of you to come together ... there may never have been such a powerful combination of content and ways of getting to it as exists in this room this morning."

He added, "I firmly believe that history will look back on this moment and either say that the cable industry did the right thing for our nation's children and helped to close the digital divide, or that they didn't do enough to make a real difference."

Singer and actress Jennifer Lopez also spoke at the closing session about her plans as the chief content officer of NUVOtv.

"This is a great way to empower and uplift the [Latino] community," she said. "It represents something bigger than just television. It represents doing something for this community that has been so underserved for so long."

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