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Statement of Chairman William E. Kennard
Regarding Funding of Rural Schools and Libraries

Discounts to support services to schools and libraries are an important part of the universal service mandate in the Communications Act -- the discounts that connect classrooms to the Internet today will produce jobs and opportunities in the economy of our future. The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) has done an excellent job implementing all of the universal service provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The Schools and Libraries Division of USAC has sent out tens of thousands of letters committing funds to eligible schools and libraries. To date, $1.08 billion in funding for internet access, telecommunications services, and internal connections has been committed. Letters committing an additional $250 - $300 million will be issued on February 20. USAC hopes to send out all commitment letters by February 28. Although not all schools and libraries will receive all of the funding they requested, all applications for telecommunications services and Internet access from eligible schools and libraries will be funded. In addition, funds are available to support internal connections for all the schools and libraries qualifying for 70% discounts.

USAC has asked the Common Carrier Bureau staff for authorization to take the steps necessary to fund these internal connections. I have directed the Bureau to respond quickly so that funding will not be delayed. All of these funds have been and will continue to be distributed consistent with our rules which ensure that support for internal connections goes to the schools and libraries that have the most need for support.(1)

1. See, e.g. Fifth Order on Reconsideration, 13 FCC Rcd 14915, 14939 (1998).