P. O. BOX 2120
April 12, 1996


TO: Division Superintendents
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.