SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 78
April 12, 1996
|FROM:||William C. Bosher, Jr.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
|SUBJECT:||1996 Virginia General Assembly|
The 1996 Virginia General Assembly authorized the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Director of the Council on Information Management to negotiate the rate structure for communications (high speed data and video) lines used for educational technology in public schools. The authorization language requires the Superintendent and Director to encourage development of by-pass" infrastructure in localities where the telephone company's rate structure fails to obtain competitive prices or prices consistent with the best rates obtained in other parts of the state. Other related activity in the General Assembly included State Corporation Commission authorization to consider discount services to public schools and libraries and to fund such discounts through the universal fund. At the national level, the recently passed Telecommunications Act requires that providers of telecommunications services in a community provide services to schools at a discounted rate. Hearings are planned to determine how the discounts should be implemented. The number and type of telecommunications providers available to communities and schools will probably increase dramatically. However, costs and benefits will vary widely. Because of these developments, it is advisable and within the best interest of school divisions and schools to become aware of all options and the outcome of the above developments when selecting telecommunications services. When signing new contracts, the Department of Education recommends including an escape clause" to permit schools to switch to lower cost services should they become available. It appears that telecommunications contracts that have already been signed will not be affected by the law, unless a specific escape clause" was included in the contract. We will try to keep you informed. Questions about our activities at the state level should be directed to Ida J. Hill, Division Chief for Technology, at (804) 225-2757. WCBJr./psw