What is eRate?

? It is the generally used term for the Universal Service Fund's Schools and Libraries Program. It is directed by the USAC or Universal Service Administrative Company under the management of FCC or Federal Communications Commission.

The E-Rate program offers discounts in order to help most libraries and schools in the United States and to get affordable Internet access and telecommunications. It is among the four support curricula sponsored through a Universal Service bill charged to corporations which provide international and/or interstate telecommunication services.

The E-Rate program maintains connectivity through the Internet and/or the pipeline or conduit for communications through telecommunication services. Sponsorship is called for under 4 service categories: basic maintenance of inner connections, Internet access, telecommunication services, and internal connections.

The support discounts depend on one's poverty level and the rural or urban condition of the population served. These discounts range from 20 to 90 percent of the expenses of qualified services. Qualified libraries, schools, and school districts may apply as part of an association or individually. Applicants for E-Rate should provide extra resources including professional development, software, end-user equipment such as telephones and computers, and other necessary elements in using the connectivity sponsored by the E-Rate program.

What is eRate's impact? It is hard to determine the efficiency of E-Rate, which has little errors and extensive goals. Yearly appeals for E-Rate sponsorships almost tripled the FCC's limit of $2.25 billion. In year 2005, more than 100,000 schools participated in the E-Rate program. In 2003, almost half of the funds went to the schools where over half of all students receive lunches with reduced costs.

Surveys with the Department of Education showed that from years 1994 to 1999, the Internet use in public schools increased from 35 percent to 95 percent and 3 percent to 63 percent in classrooms. This phase overlaps with the increase in Internet use across the world, and briefly with the presence of E-Rate. Thus, it isn't possible to casually relate the two.

On the other hand, other facts do suggest a connection. Studies have proven that the E-Rate funds had a direct influence on classroom Internet access in 4 cities. An assessment of E-Rate in California showed a 68 percent rise in classroom Internet access for each teacher, but could not make out any influence on the students. However, another study using regression technique showed that the E-Rate program in Texas schools has a positive effect on college admission rates, graduation rates, test scores, and such.

How about eRate criticisms? Aside from the incorporation issue, E-Rate has encountered legal disputes from 11 states and 6 telecommunication corporations. A company complaint regarding the E-Rate program's contribution method was averred. Because the USF bill collection is authorized by the federal government, the OMB and CBO consider the collected bills to be federal revenues, while the funds paid for discounts are considered federal outlays. But, only the USA House of Representatives is allowed to introduce revenue-producing measure. Moreover, the authority to ascertain user bills may be passed on to executive bureaus. However, the authority to tax may not. In the end, the court concluded that the FCC collection of the USF bills did not breach any law.

Some Congress members objected to the method and level of funding supplied by the FCC to the E-Rate program. They deemed the $2.25 billion budget and the inclusion of inner connections as undue and unsupportive to the resources required to attain other features of universal service. Plenty of other parts of the legislation have been established, suggesting keeping the E-Rate program but changing its funding system in order to avert a direct effect on the local phone service.

More Erate Information

  1. E-rate Central- The most complete resource available.