Off to the FCC

by Gary Knell
June 2, 2010

Reprinted from Gary’s Blog, May 2010. Gary Knell, Sesame Workshop’s President and CEO reports on his visit to the FCC:

It’s not every day you get to go to the FCC. But today, Elmo needs a chaperone.

In February of 2009, Congress passed a bill which authorizes the FCC to create a National Broadband Plan which aims “to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability.” Today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Elmo, and I, will discuss the National Broadband Plan, and how it can and should impact the lives of children.   

As our nation becomes more and more reliant on broadband Internet access, those children on the wrong side of the digital divide are increasingly at risk of not obtaining access to innovative, interactive educational media.  Failing to bridge this gap is an opportunity wasted — and a critical one at that. A 2007 Department of Education study suggested that most low-income children in the U.S. fall below grade level in reading by the fourth grade. Other research shows that if children fall behind at a young age, their odds of catching up dwindle.

For Sesame Workshop to best accomplish our mission, we need to be able to reach children through digital media. When we revived The Electric Company, we did so with the goal of helping emerging readers – those ages six to nine, specifically — develop better literacy skills. With backing from the DOE, and with a team of literary experts around the globe, we developed a comprehensive curriculum with four main literacy goals to help struggling readers get on track. And it’s not just a television show — hardly. The Electric Company uses the power of broadband to reach children where they are and delivers an interactive experience that provides opportunities for big educational gains.

Yet broadband services are not readily available to our nation’s children, especially in the low-income communities where educational enhancements are needed most. There is no question that broadband has tremendous potential to augment children’s education. Our goal today is to help the FCC bring that to those children who need it most.