July 15, 1998
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. ---- FALEOMAVAEGA WORKING TO PRESERVE
FUNDING FOR INTERNET ACCESS FOR SCHOOLS
Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he has written to Governor Tauese advising him of a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revising the level of funding for schools and libraries under the E-Rate program which was authorized by Congress in the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The FCC decided, by a 3-2 vote, to continue the E-rate program but to reduce the funding that will be made available for this fiscal year.
"Funding for the 1998 E-rate program is now set at $1.925 billion over an 18-month period ending June 30, 1999. While this saves the E-Rate program from immediate shutdown, it significantly scales back the federal commitment," said Faleomavaega. The Congressman explained that the FCC decision also re-ordered the allocation process. Approved requests for telecommunications services and Internet access will be funded first. Any remaining funds will then be allocated to approved requests for internal connections -- beginning with those from the neediest applicants.
Faleomavaega went on to say, "Although this means that American Samoa's application stands a very good chance of being funded, the final determination has not been issued at this time."
In spite of the fact that the FCC has made a decision, the E-Rate battle is not over yet. Additional Congressional action remains a possibility. Legislation has been introduced in the House that would repeal the FCC's authority to administer the E-Rate program entirely. Faleomavaega said, "The Republican leadership may try to bring up the bill sooner rather than later. I am told that House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has said that he would try to move legislation to block the [E-Rate] program in the next few weeks."
"Over the last three weeks, I have worked closely with other concerned members of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge the FCC to fully meet its obligation to the schools and libraries which have filed applications. The application from American Samoa's Department of Education is one of 37,000 applications from schools and libraries all over the United States," continued the Congressman. Taken together, these applications total approximately $2.02 billion.
The Congressman also wrote to FCC Chairman William Kennard expressing his strong support for full funding and full implementation of the E-Rate program. Faleomavaega said he had received an encouraging response from the FCC Chairman. "In his response to my letter," said the Congressman, "Chairman Kennard reiterated the FCC'c commitment to provide support for telecommunications services, Internet access and internal connections to schools and libraries, 'with economically disadvantaged schools and libraries receiving the greatest discounts.'"
"Local education officials have invested considerable resources and worked tremendously hard to ensure that all of our students get access to the information available through the Internet. I will do everything I can to ensure that the program continues to be funded at as high a level as possible," concluded Faleomavaega. More detailed information about how and when funding will be allocated is expected to be released shortly by the Schools and Libraries Corporation.