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FCC to Decide Funding Level for E-Rate Discounts by Friday
THE FCC WILL DECIDE by this Friday, June 12 (midnight), at
what level to fund the E-rate discounts.
Passed by Congress in the Telecommunications Act of 1996,
the E-rate program offers K-12 schools & libraries 20 to 90%
discounts (depending on poverty level) on telecommunications
& information services such as Internet access, telephone
service, & internal wiring. This program attracted more
than 30,000 applications from schools & libraries requesting
$2.02 billion in services. The FCC (Federal Communications
Commission) decision Friday could stop the program with
no funds being disbursed until after further consideration
"I vigorously oppose any effort to pull the plug on the
E-rate," Secretary Riley said on June 5. "The E-rate is one
of the most important educational initiatives of the last 20
years." He went on to say...
"An important fault line of the future is between those
who have technology in education & those who don't.
The E-rate will help bridge this gap. Right now, 27%
of classrooms & only 14% of those in our nation's
poorest communities, are linked to the Internet. To
tell the 30,000 schools & libraries counting on these
needed discounts that the power politics of the
telecommunications companies are interfering with their
education is not acceptable."
Below are excerpts from a new E-rate fact sheet being added
to the Department's website *tomorrow* at:
Also below are excerpts from a commencement address
President Clinton delivered on June 5 at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT). The full text is at:
Excerpts from "Discounted Telecommunications Services
for Schools & Libraries -- E-Rate Fact Sheet
Don't Leave Any Children Behind -- Ending the Digital Divide:
We are still a long way from closing the gap between the
"haves" & "have-nots" opportunity to getting new technology.
The most recent data from the National Center for Education
Statistics shows that wealthy schools were more than 2.5
times more likely to have Internet access in classrooms than
poor schools -- 36% vs. 14%. Similarly, schools with
high-minority enrollment were almost 3 times less likely to
have Internet access in classrooms than predominantly white
schools -- 13% vs. 37%. The E-Rate will help to ensure the
end of the digital divide between rich & poor schools &
among urban, rural, & suburban schools.
A Long-Serving Tradition of Universal Service:
For more than 60 years, Americans have benefited from
universal phone service.
A History of Public Support:
Americans want technology in their children's schools --
now. 74% of Americans agree that computers improve the
quality of education. The decision to provide discounted
telecommunications services to schools & libraries was the
culmination of a lengthy, inclusive, & bipartisan process,
that involved many significant public meetings, hearing &
(A brief chronology is provided in the complete fact
sheet at: http://www.ed.gov/Technology/eratemenu.html)
The applications for the E-Rate funds demonstrate that the
program is serving primarily small & medium size schools &
poorer schools. 70% of the schools & libraries are seeking
discounts totaling less than $25,000 & 53% are seeking less
than $10,000. 53% of the total funds are being requested by
the nation's poorest schools & libraries -- those that would
receive the greatest discounts. The wealthier schools that
have applied for the smaller discounts make up only .3% of
the total funds requested.
The Schools & Libraries Corporation (SLC) is conducting a
careful examination of requests to ensure that only
applications that adhere to all requirements are eligible to
receive funding. Schools & libraries must certify that they
have a technology assessment & plan for how they will use
the discounted services. The plan must be approved by their
state agency, & the state or local authority must provide a
description of the services sought & how those services will
be used to enhance education.
Already Paid For:
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was designed to create
regulatory reform including reductions in access charges to
the telecommunications industry. Over the last 11 months,
the long distance companies have already saved nearly $2.4
billion from access charge reductions. This windfall more
than offsets the estimated E-Rate demand of $2.02 billion.
By passing the cost onto the customer & adding a surcharge
to phone bills, these long distance phone companies are
trying to keep that $2.4 billion in savings for themselves.
Long distance companies are not wanting for profits:
The March 2, 1998 edition of "Business Week" indicates
that the profit margin of the telecommunications
industry stood at 8.7% in the 4th quarter of 1997,
significantly greater than the composite profit margin
for all industry of 5.5%.
The FCC is taking positive steps to streamline the
administration of universal service. On January 1, 1999,
the SLC & the Rural Health Care Corporation will be merged &
their boards will be consolidated.
Currently, only 27% of classrooms are linked to the
Internet. With the implementation of the E-Rate, more than
half of our nation's classrooms will be connected, including
almost every classroom in the nation's fifty largest urban
school districts. This is an enormous step towards closing
the technology gap that exists among our communities &
creating full & fair opportunities for all students. Our
children will be better prepared to compete for the
high-tech, high-wage jobs that our economy is producing in
Excerpts from President's Remarks on June 5, 1998, at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
.... For the very first time in our history, it is now possible
for a child in the most isolated inner-city neighborhood or rural
community to have access to the same world of knowledge at the
same instant as the child in the most affluent suburb. Imagine
the revolutionary democratizing potential this can bring. Imagine
the enormous benefits to our economy, our society, if not just a
fraction, but all young people can master this set of 21st
Just a few miles from here is the working class community of East
Sommerville. It has sometimes struggled to meet the needs of
population that is growing more diverse by the day. But at East
Sommerville Community School, well-trained technology teachers
with equipment & support from Time Warner Cable have begun to
give 1st to 8th-graders an early & enormous boost in life. First
graders are producing small books on computers. Sixth graders are
producing documentaries. The technology has so motivated them
that almost all the 6th graders showed up at school to work on
their computer projects over winter break.
That small miracle can be replicated in every school, rich &
poor, across America. Yet, today, affluent schools are almost 3
times as likely to have Internet access in the classroom; white
students more than twice as likely as black students to have
computers in their homes.
We know from hard experience that unequal education hardens into
unequal prospects. We know the Information Age will accelerate
this trend. The 3 fastest growing careers in America are all
in computer related fields, offering far more than average pay.
Happily, the digital divide has begun to narrow, but it will not
disappear of its own accord. History teaches us that even as new
technologies create growth & new opportunity, they can heighten
economic inequalities & sharpen social divisions. That is, after
all, exactly what happened with the mechanization of
agriculture & in the Industrial Revolution. ...
We cannot allow this age of opportunity to be remembered also for
the opportunities that were missed. Every day, we wake up & know
that we have a challenge; now we must decide how to meet it. Let
me suggest 3 things.
First, we must help you to ensure that America continues to lead
the revolution in science & technology. Growth is a prerequisite
for opportunity, & scientific research is a basic prerequisite
for growth. Just yesterday in Japan, physicists announced a
discovery that tiny neutrinos have mass. Now, that may not mean
much to most Americans, but it may change our most fundamental
theories -- from the nature of the smallest subatomic particles
to how the universe itself works, & indeed how it expands.
This discovery was made, in Japan, yes, but it had the support of
the investment of the U.S. Department of Energy. This discovery
calls into question the decision made in Washington a couple of
years ago to disband the super-conducting supercollider, & it
reaffirms the importance of the work now being done at the Fermi
National Acceleration Facility in Illinois.
The larger issue is that these kinds of findings have
implications that are not limited to the laboratory. They affect
the whole of society -- not only our economy, but our very view
of life, our understanding of our relations with others, & our
place in time.
In just the past 4 years, information technology has been
responsible for more than a third of our economic expansion.
Without government-funded research, computers, the Internet,
communications satellites wouldn't have gotten started. When I
became President, the Internet was the province of physicists,
funded by a government research project. There were only 50 sites
in the world. Now, as all of you know, we are adding pages to the
Worldwide Web at the rate of over 100,000 an hour, & 100 million
new users will come on this year. It all started with research, &
we must do more. ...
That is why, even as we balanced our budget for the first time in
29 years, we have increased our investments in science. This year
I asked Congress for the largest increase in research funding in
history -- not just for a year, but sustained over 5 years. It is
a core commitment that must be part of how every American,
regardless of political party or personal endeavor, thinks about
our nation & its mission. ...
The second thing we have to do is to make sure that the
opportunities of the Information Age belong to all our children.
Every young American must have access to these technologies. Two
years ago...I challenged our nation to connect every classroom to
the Internet by the year 2000. Thanks to unprecedented
cooperation at national, state, & local levels, an outpouring of
support from active citizens, & the decreasing costs of
computers, we're on track to meet this goal.
Four years ago when you came to MIT, barely 3% of America's
classrooms were connected. By this time next year, we will have
connected well over half our classrooms including 100% of the
classrooms in the nation's 50 largest urban school districts.
But it is not enough to connect the classrooms. The services have
to be accessed. You may have heard recently about something
called the e-rate. It's the most crucial initiative we've
launched to help connect our schools, our libraries, & our rural
health centers to the Internet. Now some businesses have called
on Congress to repeal the initiative. They say our nation cannot
afford to provide discounts to these institutions of learning &
health by raising a billion dollars or so a year from service
charges on telecommunications companies -- something that was
agreed to in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that passed with
overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both Houses.
I say we cannot afford not to have an e-rate. Thousands of poor
schools & libraries & rural health centers are in desperate need
of discounts. If we really believed that we all belong in the
Information Age, then, at this sunlit moment of prosperity, we
can't leave anyone behind in the dark.
Every one of you who understands this I urge to support the
e-rate. Every one of you here who came from a poor inner-city
neighborhood, who came from a small rural school district, who
came perhaps from another country where this was just a distant
dream, you know that there are poor children now who may never
have a chance to go to MIT unless someone reaches out & gives
them this kind of opportunity. Every child in America deserves
the chance to participate in the information revolution.
The third thing we have to do is to make sure that all the
computers & the connections in the world don't go to waste. ...
Already, 10 states with an eye to the future have made technology
literacy a requirement of graduation from high school. I believe
we should meet this goal in the middle school years. I believe
every child in every state should leave middle school able to use
the most current tools for learning, research, communication, &
collaboration. And we will help every state to meet this goal.
If a state commits to adopt a technology literacy requirement,
then we will help to provide the training that the teachers need.
I propose to create a team of trained technology experts for
every American middle school in every one of these states, & to
create competitions over the next 3 years to encourage the
development of high-quality educational software & educational
web sites by students & professors in commercial software
Thomas G. Tate, ECS-CSREES-USDA, Room 3901 South Building
Washington, D.C. 20250-0915
(v) 202-720-2727 (f) 202-690-2975
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ACE Home Page: http://www.sba.gov/ace
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