In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama raised hopes that 20 million students would gain high-speed broadband connectivity thanks to the support of companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon. With the support of those companies, he said “we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.”

But an industry source familiar with the plan told Telecompetitor that the public/private component of the announcement has more to do with teachers and students leveraging high-speed connectivity rather than the connectivity itself.

A fact sheet issued by the White House about the president’s address appears to support that interpretation. It notes, for example, that the President’s ConnectED initiative, announced last year, aims to connect 99% of students to next-generation broadband within five years.

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In a separate sentence, it notes that “in the coming weeks the President will announce new philanthropic partnerships – including by companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon – but provides no further details.

When queried by Telecompetitor, neither Verizon nor Sprint referenced a plan to deploy broadband to schools.

“We share the President’s vision for broadband as a transformative technology for educators and students, and we look forward to in the very near future discussing how Verizon can help ensure America’s teachers and students have the tools and skills to succeed in this 21st century information economy,” said a Verizon spokesman.

A Sprint spokesman simply noted that, “We look forward to discussing the details of Sprint’s commitment in the coming weeks.”

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