Apple Commits $100 Million to President Obama's ConnectED Education Program

Apple has committed what the White characterized as "unprecedented" $100 million in Apple gear to President Barack Obama's ConnectED Initiative. ConnectED is a program to get high speed Internet connectivity and the devices to use that connectivity into American classrooms, and Apple was joined by several other companies who committed more than $750 million to the program.

Apple ConnectED

ConnectED was announced in June of 2013, but it was a bullet point in last week's State of the Union address by President Obama. Tuesday's announcement by the White House is being touted as part of the president's effort to use "his pen and his phone" to make significant advancements in a number of areas, including U.S. education.

"In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?" Mr. Obama said when he announced ConnectED.

Apple, AT&T, Autodesk, Microsoft, O'Reilly Media, Sprint, and Verizon were all named in Tuesday's announcement, with the $750 million coming from all of them except Microsoft. Big Redmond pledged $1 million to cover testing in the the roughly 2000 at-risk designated schools in the U.S., and also promised to offer discounts on Microsoft products.

Apple, on the other hand, is ponying up iPads, MacBooks, and unspecified "other products" to the program. The White House wrote:

In an unprecedented commitment for the company, Apple has pledged $100 million in iPads, MacBooks, and other products along with content and professional development to enrich learning in disadvantaged schools, including interactive learning tools and ongoing support that can have a profound impact for students and teachers in the communities that need it most.

Apple doesn't have a long track record of making major donations to education programs. Indeed, Apple doesn't have a long track record of donating much of anything to anything, but donations and contributions have increased under CEO Tim Cook.

The other companies offered an array of products and services:

  • AT&T – Pledged over $100 million to provide middle-school students free Internet connectivity for educational devices over their wireless network for three years.
  • Autodesk – Pledged to expand the company’s “Design the Future” program to be available to every secondary school in the country – offering for free over $250 million in value.
  • Microsoft – Committed to launch a substantial affordability program open to all U.S. public schools by deeply discounting the price of its Windows operating system, which will substantially bring down the cost of Windows-based devices.
  • O’Reilly Media – Partnering with Safari Books Online to make over $100 million in educational content and tools available, for free, to every school in America.
  • Sprint – Committed to offer free wireless service for up to 50,000 low-income high school students over the next four years, valued at $100 million.
  • Verizon – Announced a multi-year program to support the ConnectED vision through up to $100 million in cash and in-kind commitments.

Other announcements include $2 billion from the FCC's E-Rate program for high-speed Internet, and $10 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for distance learning programs in rural schools.