In an article in the November 1997 issue of T.H.E. Journal (see "The E-Rate Doesn't Have To Be a Win/Lose Situation," p. 70) we discussed some potential barriers to successful implementation of the E-rate and possible solutions to those barriers. The key to the issues -- quite obvious, really -- is comprehensive planning and budgeting to ensure that the acquisition of content, hardware, professional development, and maintenance and support accompany the rush to connect to the Internet.
As the FCC has evolved the process for implementing the E-rate, there have been a number of additional issues that have come up that educators and the library community should be aware of. Some of the original decisions are being revisited and issues that no one anticipated or could have imagined have surfaced. Implementing a $2.25 billion a year fund is an enormous task. The FCC and the governing bodies it has created should feel comfortable invoking the "I reserve the right to be smarter today than I was yesterday" rule in order to get the process right. It is no secret that there are any number of entities which do not necessarily want the E-rate to succeed. (In fact, several key members of Congress have expressed strong disapproval of the way the FCC is going about implementing the E-rate.) This evolutionary process of implementation is critical to ensuring success for the E-rate and its resultant positive impact on schools and libraries.
The following are changes or new issues that have developed since we published "What You Need to Know: New Discounts Cut the Toll for Driving the Information Superhighway" (T.H.E. Journal, 9-97, p.p.52).
There are 4 corporations overseeing various aspects of the E-rate. The National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA - www.neca.org) oversees the entire process. This association was appointed, by the FCC as the temporary administrator of the support mechanisms which will fund the universal service programs.
The commission also ordered NECA to incorporate an independent, non-profit subsidiary, Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), and two non-profit, unaffiliated corporations, the …