The challenges sometimes presented by the rural nature of South Dakota have been lessened with the advent of the Internet. Students can connect to classrooms hundreds of miles away from home. Products can be bought and sold. The possibilities are endless. As such, I am committed to ensuring the Internet remains a strong engine for economic growth.
It has become increasingly clear that Internet access is crucial to our global economy, providing opportunities for jobs, education, and a higher quality of life. I am committed to doing all I can to ensure that the Internet remains accessible to all citizens, including people in rural areas. Expanding broadband in rural America will bring additional economic development, education, and health care opportunities to small or remote communities. I support ambitious plans to deploy high-speed Internet in rural areas to ensure rural communities can compete in our global economy.
In addition, I am committed to maintaining the intended purpose of the Universal Service Fund, which makes telecom services affordable in areas where economies of scale would otherwise make those services cost prohibitive. I will continue to support federal efforts to expand access to quality and affordable Internet and mobile broadband service in rural areas. Because many schools in rural America find it difficult to keep up with the latest technology due to tight budget constraints, I have worked with the U.S. Senate's Computers for Schools program to donate computers to schools around South Dakota. I am also very supportive of the E-Rate program, which subsidizes school and library telecommunications and Internet services, providing discounts ranging from 20% to 90% for classrooms and community libraries that would otherwise have difficulty affording such services. Especially in rural states like South Dakota, the E-Rate program helps bridge the digital divide and ensures that all children, including those without access to computers or the Internet at home, will have the high-tech skills to compete in a digital economy.
Maintaining our scientific and technological leadership is especially critical in this increasingly competitive world. That is why I am a strong supporter of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. In the 112th Congress, I cosponsored the STEM Master Teacher Corps Act. This bill seeks to attract people to the STEM teaching profession, improve retention among STEM teachers, and provide STEM teachers with career advancement opportunities. Providing our children with a quality STEM education begins in the classroom, and investing in STEM education is good for our country and good for South Dakota. It will help us attract economic development opportunities, like the world class underground laboratory at the Homestake Mine in Lead, and help us compete in a rapidly changing and global economy.
The Internet has had a positive impact on our lives. It has opened educational opportunities with research and online courses and connected people all over the world. Local businesses in South Dakota can sell their products online to nearly anyone. The Internet has enhanced health care in rural communities through the use of telemedicine. Families can stay in touch, even share photos, videos, and stay connected through social media.
Yet, as we connect with the world online, our safe neighborhoods are opened up to strangers with sometimes dangerous intentions. In South Dakota, we teach our children to be polite and friendly. We are also cautious and tell them not to talk to strangers. However, when our kids go online, they could be talking to strangers in online chat rooms, blogs, and instant messenger services.
The Internet can be a great place for kids to meet new people and expand their horizons. But, we need to make sure they are being careful about the information they share and who they may meet.