Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service

Karin Geiselhart u833885@student.canberra.edu.au
Sun, 20 Oct 1996 09:25:40 +1000 (EST)

Please excuse omission of signature file on previous message (new software):

More details on proposal: 

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: Kevin Taglang <kevint@benton.org>
To: benton-compolicy@cdinet.com, upforgrabs-l@cdinet.com
Subject: Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 16:34:09 -0500
Message-ID: <199610182045.QAA14359@periplum.cdinet.com>

Open Meeting of Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service

On Thursday October 17, the  Federal - State Joint Board on Universal
Service held an open meeting at the Federal Communications Commission
(FCC).  The Joint Board heard testimony from Secretary of Education
Riley, Congressman Major Owens (D-NY), National Telecommunications and
Information Administration (NTIA) Director Larry Irving, and others in
support of the "E-Rate" proposal that would provide free basic telephone
services and discounted advanced telecommunications services to schools

The proposal has two tiers: the first tier is a basic package including
telephone service and Internet access  at speeds up to of 1.5 Mbs (the
capacity of a T1 telephone line).  In this tier, a school district
a technology plan _ a strategy to incorporate basic telephone and
services into the curriculum.  The district then solicits bids from local
telecommunications providers to fulfill the needs outlined in the
technology plan.  The winning bid will be the one with the best combination
of functionality and price.  The cost of installation of the telephone
and the monthly charges for the services would be supported by the
Universal Service Fund (USF).

The second tier addresses more advanced and special services.  The E-Rate
proposal would make schools and libraries eligible for market-based
discounts reflecting "the best available commercial rate" for special and
advanced services.  Videoconferencing, for example, would be an advanced
service that a school or library could receive at the lowest price a
provider charges its biggest customers.  There would be no support from the
USF in this tier.  The proposal only ensures that schools and libraries
receive the best price available for these services.

Schools and libraries in high-cost and low-income areas will receive
help in this proposal.  For special and advanced services, these
institutions will receive extra discounts to make these services more
affordable.  These discounts will be supported by the USF and will be
determined on a sliding scale.

Initial cost estimates from the NTIA run from $1.5 to $2.5 billion to be
paid by telecommunications ratepayers through the USF.  Congressman Owens
reminded the Joint Board that although that may appear to be a large
number, it is less than the price of one aircraft carrier and probably
out-of-line with the country's investment in the development of the
intercontinental railroad.  Estimates also include the current cost of T1
lines and other services that could dramatically drop with the increased
demand of 110,000 schools and 16,000 libraries.  The NTIA cost estimates
are dwarfed by current USF and access fee support for local phone systems
which are estimated to be between $5 and $18 billion a year.

For full details, the proposal is available on NTIA's web site at URL
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/new.html and from NTIA's Office of Public Affairs
at 202-482-3999.  Or call Paige Darden at 202-482-1551.

Benton Foundation
1634 Eye Street NW, 12th Floor
Washington, DC 20006-4006
phone: 202-638-5770
fax: 202-638-5771

Karin Geiselhart
University of Canberra