Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Black Caucus Demonstrates Support for FCC's E-Rate Decision

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Black Caucus Demonstrates Support for FCC's E-Rate Decision

Article excerpt

For the Congressional Black Caucus, the chance to influence a major decision on education was too good to pass up.

In what they termed an "unprecedented" visit, 15 caucus members filled a hearing room at the Federal Communications Commission as it voted on future funding for the e-rate, the discounts available to low-income schools, and libraries to encourage access to new technologies and the Internet. Nearly 100 members of Congress also signed a letter to the FCC urging support.

Created in 1996, the e-rate faces strong opposition from conservatives who call it an unfair tax on consumers. Telecommunications companies contribute to the e-rate, but some say the firms simply pass on the costs to the public. But supporters say the program plays a valuable role in linking disadvantaged youth to technology.

"The 'E' in the e-rate should stand for equality," says Rep. James Clyburn (D-- S.C.), the Congressional Black Caucus chairman who was among those in attendance at the FCC hearing.

After debate, FCC commissioners narrowly approved full e-rate funding by a 3-to-- 2 vote. The decision means the agency will spend $2.25 billion on the program for the 12-month period beginning in July. Last year, under pressure from conservatives, the commissioners cut funding back to about $1. …

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