George Lucas: Free Broadband for Schools

Star Wars creator George Lucas testifies at House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee hearing.

The new "force" is the Internet, and it should be "with" every child.

Essentially, that was the message of Star Wars creator George Lucas, who was on Capitol Hill Tuesday to help fight the funding wars for universal broadband and to make the case for the importance of making high-speed Internet access for students, schools and libraries a national priority.

At a House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee hearing Tuesday on universal broadband service and its funding, "The Future of Universal Service: To Whom, By Whom, For What, and How Much?," Lucas said Congress needs to plan for the kind of content coming down the pipe that will need higher bandwidth and to ensure that schools and libraries are ready to handle it.

Lucas was testifying in his capacity as founder of the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Saying that the world's knowledge is now online in a way that it can't be accessed through textbooks anymore, Lucas added that while he applauded the discounts provided for wiring schools and libraries via the E-Rate program, the goal should be to make those connections free.

Currently, the E-Rate program -- which subsidizes Internet access to schools and libraries via a surcharge on calls -- is capped at $2.25 billion per year and does not apply to the high speeds that are increasingly the currency of information distribution. That needs to change, Lucas said.

He recognized that free service was an "ambitious" goal, but also suggested that it was crucial.

Telecommunications services are the new learning platform of this century, Lucas added, and "access to modern telecommunications tools should be viewed as a digital civil right."

Lucas also said that wireless is the Iternet delivery system of the future, and that some of the wireless spectrum being auctioned to private companies should be reserved for public use, perhaps a separate, educational, Internet.