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Welcome to the FCC's informal education page. Technology has great power to enhance education. The FCC is working to bring every school and library in America into the information age. Join the dialogue to help spread the benefits of technology to schools and libraries nationwide.
For more information, please visit the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) Web Site or call their toll-free customer number at (888)-203-8100 for answers to questions concerning the Universal Service Application for Schools and Libraries. The SLD is an independent not-for-profit corporation established to administer universal service for Schools & Libraries. The Schools and Libraries Universal Service support mechanism was established as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 with the express purpose of providing affordable access to telecommunications services for all eligible schools and libraries, particularly those in rural and economically disadvantaged areas.
On February 8, 1996 President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This law represents the first comprehensive revision of the USA's communications laws in more than 60 years. The universal service section of this law, Section 254, will help schools and libraries obtain access to state of the art services and technologies at discounted rates. The FCC, through its decision-making-process, shapes the policy that will bring about this increase in access to technology. An up-to-date list of links to universal service related Commission documents is maintained on the FCC's Universal Service Home Page. Additional information is also available in the FCC document Frequently Asked Questions on Universal Service and the Snowe-Rockefeller Amendment.
The "universal service" system was originally designed to make local telephone service available to all Americans at reasonable rates. In many cases, universal service policies have required that rates for certain telecommunications services be set above the cost of providing those services to generate a subsidy that could be used to reduce the rates for local service provided to residential customers. Many other federal and state programs are presently used to ensure universal service.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 calls for a revision of the universal service system. The revision must expand boththe base of companies that contribute to offset communications service rates and the category of customers who benefit from discounts. Schools, libraries, and health care providers as well as residential and rural customers will be the primary universal service beneficiaries.
The new law requires that the FCC and the states base the revision of the universal service system on seven principles,including the principle that elementary and secondary schools, libraries, and health care providers should have access to advanced telecommunications services.
The Snowe-Rockefeller-Exon-Kerrey Amendment
FCC Timeline on Universal Service
On March 8, 1996 the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. [ News Release | Text Version | WordPerfect Version ]. Comments on this proposal were received April 12, 1996, reply comments on May 7, 1996. In addition, two Public Notices were released. The first, dated July 3, 1996, asked 72 questions [Text Version | WordPerfect Version ]. The second, dated July 10, 1996, sought comment regarding proxy cost models [Text Version | WordPerfect Version ]. Responses were due August 2nd and 9th, respectively. These documents asked questions such as what types of communications services should be made available to schools at discounted rates, and how to determine an appropriate level of discount.
The public responses to the FCC's questions on universal service were reviewed by a Joint Board composed of federal and state communications commissioners and a utility consumer advocate. This board was formed, as required by the Act, to issue recommendations to the FCC concerning universal service policy generally, including those aspects related to education. The Joint Board issued its Recommendations on November 7, 1996. On November 18, 1996 the FCC issued an additional Public Notice containing questions related to the Board's recommendations. Comments were received by December 16, 1996, and reply comments by January 10, 1997.
On May 8, 1997 the Commission released the major Report and Order implementing the Telecom Act's Universal Service Provisions [ News Release | Order ]. An up-to-date list of links to universal service related Commission documents that have been released since this order was released is maintained on the FCC's Universal Service Home Page.
Other FCC information about making technology and telecommunications available to schools and libraries.
On May 6, 1996 the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [ Text Version | WordPerfect Version | PDF Version ] in response to petitions filed by Apple Computer, Inc. and WINForum, that seeks comment on making spectrum available for use by new unlicensed equipment called NII/SUPERNet devices. The proposal is relevant to schools since these devices could help link classrooms to the Internet by wireless means, thus providing schools an alternative to installing wires in classrooms. In response to the NPRM, 52 comments and 26 reply comments were filed. On January 9, 1997 the Commission released an Order amending FCC rules to make 300 megahertz of spectrum available for use by this new category of unlicensed equipment, now called Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure ("U-NII") devices.
Other Documents on this proceeding are provided by the Office of Engineering & Technology.
Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to conduct regular inquiries to see that advanced telecommunications are in fact becoming accessible. If the FCC finds that they are not, it must accelerate the deployment of advanced services by removing barriers to investment and promoting competition. The FCC is required to use its regulatory tools to encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications to all Americans, including, in particular, elementary and secondary schools and classrooms.
In other words, the FCC must act to ensure that cutting edge telecommunications technology is available in schools -- and classrooms in those schools -- around the country on an ongoing basis. See the FCC's Section 706 Advanced Services Inquiry web page for more information.
The following related resources at other internet sites may be useful. Please note: these sites have no connection to the FCC. The presence of these links does not represent an endorsement by the FCC of the referenced sites or their content.
Universal Service Administrative Company
On-line Seminar: Universal Service/Network Democracy
The U.S. Department of Education
Consortium for School Networking
The Jason Project
The National Science Foundation Directorate for Education and Human Resources
Old Colorado City Communications National Science Foundation Wireless Field Test Project
International Society for Technology in Education
American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy
|last reviewed/updated on 1/8/04|
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