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Thursday, October 28, 2004

E-rate: Unconnected schools in Alaska

In some rural schools, the Internet has become as essential as pencils and paper, and having e-rate funds on hold is a hardship, CNET reports. Take the Kuspuk School District, for example. It serves 416 students spread out over 12,000 square miles in southwestern Alaska - "only accessible by plane and, in the summer months, boats on the Kuskokwim River. Video conferencing over the Internet offered a perfect solution to the district's staffing shortage. The technology could be used to connect all nine of its schools, so that teachers and educational specialists could be shared throughout the district," according to CNET. Kuspuk was using e-rate funds (federal Net-connectivity subsidies for schools and libraries) for 90% of its Internet costs. The funding was put on hold while the Universal Service Administrative Company, which runs the e-rate program for the US Federal Communications Commission, is adopting new accounting rules. "The accounting changes and the ensuing chaos in the program have come at a time when the E-rate program is already under scrutiny from lawmakers over charges of fraud, waste and abuse," adds CNET, which does a great job of explaining this complicated problem.


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