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Topic: Legislative Alert
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Legislative Alert
Posted: Jun 5, 1998 3:38 PM
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For your information.




***LEGISLATIVE ALERT*** June 5, 1998


In a nutshell, the universal service, or e-rate,
program, which would provide schools (K-12) and
libraries with discounts from 20 to 90 percent on
telecommunications services (local and long distance
telephone service), Internet access, and internal
wiring is in SERIOUS trouble.

Despite the fact that more than 30,000 applications
have been received, requesting $2.02 billion of the
$2.25 billion allotted for the program in 1998, none
of the money has yet been disbursed to schools and

Now Congress is now pressuring the FCC to halt the
collection of funds for the universal service
program, which, in effect, would halt the program
itself until further consideration by Congress.

The Associated Press reports that the request was made
in a letter Thursday to FCC Chairman Bill Kennard from
the ranking members of the Senate and House Commerce
committees, which have jurisdiction over FCC. The
signers were Senators John McCain (R-AZ), and Ernest
Hollings (D-SC) and Representatives Thomas Bliley
(R-VA) and John Dingell (D-MI).

Already, last December, under pressure from Congress
and phone companies, the FCC decided to cut funding
for the Internet discounts and to provide only $625
million in subsidies to schools and libraries for the
first six months of 1998. Previously, as stated
above, the FCC had set the amount at $2.25 billion per

In effect, then, Congress is attempting to rewrite
the Telecommunications Law that it passed in 1996 that
authorized the universal service program and mandated
that telecommunications companies contribute to the
e-rate fund. In the law, Congress attempted to
offset this requirement by removing certain levies
that the companies were previously required to pay.
Now the companies, in particular AT&T and MCI are
balking, and Congress is caving in.

After reading the article below that appeared in
today's Washington Post, WE URGE YOU

Ask that the universal service program be implemented
AS IT WAS PASSED BY CONGRESS. Briefly explain why
this program is so important to your students and your
school, your school district, and/or the students of
your area.

You can send an e-mail message by going to the "Save
the E-Rate Campaign" site at

The site provides all necessary e-mail addresses and
will copy your message to those groups and individuals
you select.

Note that while the article below states that the FCC
was scheduled to vote on this issue next Monday, the
open meeting has now been canceled in favor of a
Congressional hearing on the matter on WESNESDAY,
June 10.

Pressure from Congress on the FCC is intense. So your
e-mail message will matter and must be sent ASAP.

The following article is COPYRIGHTED by the Washington

FCC May Suspend Internet Program
Angry Lawmakers Target Fund Effort

By Mike Mills
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 5, 1998; Page D01

Facing pressure from key members of
Congress, the Federal Communications
Commission is on the verge of halting
the collection of money for a new
program to help wire schools and
libraries to the Internet, according
to agency sources.

Such a move could end hopes by 30,000
schools and libraries nationwide to
get discounts this year to establish
or upgrade Internet connections. It
also could lead to a reduction in
special surcharges that long-distance
companies have placed on consumer
bills to help finance the discounts.

The fees, running as high as 6
percent on bills from companies such
as AT&T Corp. and MCI Communications
Corp., have angered members of
Congress. The companies, however,
counter that they are necessary to
recoup money that the companies must
pay into a new fund set up to provide
the discounts.

Only a small portion of the fees
actually reach the fund for schools
and libraries. Most of the money goes
toward other programs to ensure
low-cost phone service to rural and
poor areas. The FCC argues that
long-distance carriers should not
impose the fees at all because their
costs have been offset by reductions
the carriers have enjoyed in the
rates they pay to local telephone
companies for beginning and ending
long-distance calls.

The FCC was deluged with calls and
letters yesterday from angry
Republican and Democratic lawmakers,
demanding that the agency stop
collecting money for the program.

The agency "should immediately
suspend further collection of funding
for its schools and libraries
program," said a letter signed by
some of the leading lawmakers on
telecommunications policy -- Rep.
John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Rep.
Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.), Sen.
John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Ernest
F. Hollings (D-S.C.). "We believe it
is too late for the commission to
rescue itself merely by tinkering
with a fundamentally flawed and
legally suspect program."

The letters are "pretty unambiguous,"
said a FCC staff member, who
requested anonymity. "This removes
any doubt that we'll stop" the
funding, the source said. Before the
barrage from Capitol Hill, the FCC
had been planning early next week to
take less drastic action, such as
reducing funding and ensuring that
the neediest schools get help first.

A spokesman for FCC Chairman William
Kennard said the agency plans to vote
on the issue Monday.

Lynne Bradley, deputy executive
director of the American Library
Association's Washington office,
said: "To call for a halt to this
[program] is a travesty. There are
30,000 applications in the pipeline.
There is clearly a need for this

The program, part of a 1996 overhaul
of telecommunications laws, is being
derided by Republican critics as a
new tax imposed by the Clinton

Critics said the FCC, with prodding
by the administration, created a
schools and libraries program that
goes far beyond what Congress
intended. The General Accounting
Office found that the FCC exceeded
its authority by creating a Schools
and Libraries Corp. to run the

The FCC has collected about $625
million from long-distance companies
this year and had planned to bring in
as much as $2 billion more by year's
end. So far, however, it has not
disbursed any of the money.

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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