SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 103
June 20, 1997
|FROM:||Richard T. La Pointe
Superintendent of Public Instruction
|SUBJECT:||Universal Service Telecommunications Discounts|
The Report and Order of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 began a process to provide schools, libraries, and rural health care providers with discounts on telecommunications services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued the Report and Order detailing the regulations that will be put in place governing these discounts on May 7, 1997. According to the Report and Order, schools will be eligible for discounts of 20-90 percent off the lowest competitively available rate for all commercially available telecommunications services, Internet access, and installation and maintenance of internal connections providing telecommunications services to classrooms. Discounts will apply to telephone service (local and long distance); advanced telecommunications services such as video-on-demand, distance learning, etc.; a basic conduit" from the classroom to the Internet including Internet service provider (ISP) charges and inside wiring including routers, hubs, servers, wires, and installation of those items. Computers, software, and teacher training are not eligible for discounts. Additionally, schools and libraries will have the flexibility to purchase whatever package of telecommunications services they believe will meet their needs most effectively and efficiently. Discount percentage rates will be based on the number of students eligible (not just participating) in the national school lunch program. The FCC has provided a matrix of six levels of discounts based on the percentage of national school lunch eligibility. Additional discounts may apply to rural schools. Discounts can apply either to individual schools or can be averaged for the school division, if the division chooses to purchase telecommunications services for all schools. The FCC encourages schools and libraries to seek partnerships or join consortia to utilize services more efficiently. To qualify for discounts, schools must apply to the National Exchange Carriers Association (NECA) which has been named interim administrator of the Universal Service program. FCC requirements for schools' application are as follows: Schools must prepare a technology plan for using the discounted telecommunications services. The technology plan must be approved by a designated state agency. The Committee on State Discount Rates is recommending to the Governor that the Department of Education be approved to review plans of school divisions which are already on file in the agency. In addition to the approved technology plan, schools must provide the following information to the Universal Service administrator (NECA) as specified in the Report and Order #572: (1) the computer equipment currently available or budgeted for purchase for the current, next, or other future academic years, and whether the computers have modems and, if so, what speed modems; (2) the internal connections, if any, that the school or library already has in place or has budgeted to install in the current, next, or future academic years, or any specific plans relating to voluntary installation of internal connections; (3) the computer software necessary to communicate with other computers over an internal network and over the public telecommunications network currently available or budgeted for purchase for the current, next, or future academic years; (4) the experience and training the staff has received in the use of the equipment to be connected to the telecommunications network and training programs for which funds are committed for the current, next, and future academic years; (5) existing or budgeted maintenance contracts to maintain computers and; (6) the capacity of the school's or library's electrical system to handle simultaneous uses. The FCC will also require the applicant to describe the services that schools seek to purchase in sufficient detail to enable potential providers to formulate bids. The FCC's intent is to have the administrator post this information on the Internet for service providers to have an opportunity to bid on the requested services. Finally, the FCC, as specified in the Report and Order #577, will require the person authorized to order telecommunications services to sign the application and certify that: (1) the school or library is an eligible entity under sections 254(h)(4) and 254(h)(5) and the rules adopted herein; (2) the services requested will be used solely for educational purposes; (3) the services will not be sold, resold, or transferred for money or any other thing of value; (4) if the services are being purchased with other entities, all co-purchasers must be identified along with the services or portion of the services being purchased by the school or library; (5) all of the necessary funding in the current funding year has been budgeted and will have been approved to pay for the non-discount" portion of requested connections and services as well as necessary hardware, software, and that the necessary staff training will be provided in time to use the services effectively; and; (6) the applicant has complied and will continue to comply with all applicable state and local procurement procedures. Some of these provisions may change by the time the applications are filed. However, schools interested in receiving support may wish to begin compiling the information the FCC is requesting. School divisions may also wish to revise the technology plans submitted to the Department of Education to reflect requirements for participation in this program. A state requirement of the FCC is to adopt discounts for intrastate telecommunications services that are at least equal to the interstate discounts. The Department and the Council on Information Management are now working with the State Corporation Commission to establish intrastate discounts for schools. The Universal Service discount program is an opportunity for schools and libraries to significantly increase technology availability for students, teachers, and the public for years to come. It should be noted, however, that it will take some time for NECA to interpret the regulations, produce the discount applications, set up the administrative process, and account for funding. Regulations in the FCC Report and Order take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. The Report and Order has not been published. Also, once the Report and Order has been published in the Federal Register, legal challenges to provisions of Universal Service may be filed. It is our understanding, at this time, that funds are to be collected from telecommunications carriers to fund discounts to schools. The enclosed State Corporation Commission (SCC) New Release was issued June 9, 1997. More information on Universal Service is available on the internet at: - http://www.ed.gov/Technology for US DOE - http://www.fcc.gov/learnet for Federal Communications Commission - http/www.edtech-alert.com for Edtech-ALERT - http://www.pen.k12.va.us/go/techbook/fcc.html for the VDOE Telecommunications Discounts page Additionally, new information will be provided on the DOE Homepage as it is received. For questions on current department activities related to the Telecommunications Act contact Dr. Ida J. Hill, Assistant Superintendent for Technology at (804) 225-2757. Greg Weisiger, VSEN Administrator, should be contacted at (804) 692-0335 for information about future department activities and the content of the Report and Order. RTL/emt Attachment: A hard copy of this memo and its attachment will be sent to the superintendent's office.