Magazine article American Libraries

Senators Attack Universal-Service Oversight

Magazine article American Libraries

Senators Attack Universal-Service Oversight

Article excerpt

Three Republican Senators and the General Accounting Office have charged that the Federal Communications Commission overstepped its bounds by establishing the Schools and Libraries Corporation to administer the universal-service telecommunications-discount program.

Senate Commerce Committee members Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) say Congress should have more oversight of the fund, which will disburse up to $2.5 billion annually to schools, libraries, and health-care providers.

A GAO report requested by Stevens and released February 11 says the FCC "exceeded its authority when it directed the National Exchange Carriers Association to create" the SLC and the Rural Health Care Corporation. The FCC responds in the report that it has such authority under the Telecommunications Act, which said the commission "may perform any and all acts" to carry out the universal-service rules.

"I fully support the goal of bringing advanced telecommunications services to schools and libraries," said McCain, "but as I have stated in the past, I don't believe that multimillion-dollar bureaucracies are necessary in order to accomplish this goal."

McCain and other lawmakers also criticized the salaries paid to Schools and Libraries Corporation executives. Chief Executive Ira Fishman is paid $200,000 a year and could also earn a $50,000 bonus. Three other senior executives each make more than $100,000.

"It's outrageous, and we're going to obviously have to do something about it," said McCain. …

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