Universal Service/Network Democracy
(August 19 - August 25)
Join the Information Renaissance in an on-line seminar on the provisions
of the Telecommunications Act which deal with Universal Service for
schools and libraries. Participants will include teachers, librarians,
school administrators, people from the business community, and government
staff. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 represents the first major
revision of federal telecommunications policy in 62 years. The new
Universal Service provisions offer an important opportunity to ensure
that the needs of the education and library communities will be met.
Your participation will help make this happen.
Table of Contents
Act of 1996 has rewritten basic
telecommunications law for the first time since 1934. There are two
prominent themes in the new Telecommunications Act:
The Universal Service provisions of the 1934 telecommunications act were
primarily intended to guarantee that rural telephone subscribers would
be able to obtain service and that their service would be no more
expensive than comparable services sold to urban customers.
- Competition. The Act is intended to foster broad competition
between cable, telephone and other telecommunications suppliers. This
has the potential to accelerate the introduction of new services and
lower prices to consumers.
- Universal Service. These provisions are intended to prevent
the establishment of a two-tier society with information "haves" and
The new Universal Service provisions go beyond the provisions of the
1934 law in several ways. First of all, they extend the range of
services that may be covered to include new technologies. In addition,
through the "Snowe-Rockefeller Amendment" they establish a new
Universal Service fund for schools, libraries and rural health care
providers. The Universal Service provisions for schools and libraries have
the potential to allow the connection of all of the nation's classrooms
and libraries to the Internet. How this potential is realized will
depend upon proceedings now under way at the Federal Communications
The FCC has issued a public "Notice of Proposed Rule Making" on Universal
Service. This provides an opportunity for public comment before a
Federal/State Joint Board which is charged with writing the rules to
implement the Universal Service provisions of the Telecommunications
Act. FCC staff are presently working with public comments presented
to the Commission and using these comments to help construct the new rules.
In recent years there have been great strides in the implementation
of networking technology in local schools and libraries. The
experience gained in this activity should now be brought to bear
on the FCC's rule making process in the area of Universal Service
provisions for schools and libraries. Practitioners at the local
level can identify where technology has been most successful and
can predict accurately the near-term needs of their own
The FCC's rule making process has previously been a rather closed
process. The only authoritative repository of public comment is on a
computer system accessible only in the FCC's offices. This means that
for any group to be a full participant in the FCC's proceedings
it has typically been necessary for them to have offices in Washington.
In order to extend public access to people outside of Washington,
Information Renaissance has purchased copies of all comments and replies
submitted to the FCC. This material has been scanned or converted from
other electronic media and placed on-line
for access through the Internet.
Thus, for the first time, there will be broad access to the full
range of materials under consideration by the FCC in its rule making
During the five week period from August 26 - September 27, 1996,
Information Renaissance will conduct an on-line seminar on the topic
of the provisions of the Telecommunications Act which deal with Universal
Service for schools and libraries. The seminar will be targeted at local
school and library personnel interested in gaining familiarity
with the Telecommunications Act and in helping to ensure that their
schools and libraries will be able to obtain the telecommunications
services that they most need as the Act is implemented.
The seminar will deal with the Act itself, with FCC procedures to
implement the Act and with specific telecommunications needs of
schools and libraries nationwide. Participants will include
teachers and librarians, school administrators, FCC and other
federal agency staff and people from the business community.
It will seek to share expertise among these groups and to identify
the most productive ways to use the new Telecommunications Act to
provide needed services at the local level.
In dollar terms the stakes of the Universal Service debate are large.
Initial comments before the FCC set the level of possible subsidies at
between $0.3 billion and $3 billion a year. Broad public participation
in the implementation of the Telecommunications Act will help ensure
that the final provisions of the Act will provide assistance which
is on the scale required to address educational needs at the local
level and focused to have the maximal impact on these issues.
The on-line seminar will involve teachers, school support personnel
and local librarians as its primary audience. In order to provide
necessary expertise on technical, economic and legal issues invitations
will be extended to all parties which have submitted comments or
reply comments on Universal Service issues to the FCC.
be open to all interested parties, within the limits of the technical
capabilities of Information Renaissance to support the activity.
If the seminar is over-subscribed, priority will be given to people
in the primary target group.
Discussions in the seminar will take place via electronic mail,
with an archive of all mail being made available through the
project Web site. Anyone will be able to view this material,
but if you want to be able to make your own submissions, you
must be registered for the seminar. There are three options
available for registration, depending on the primary means by
which you expect to access seminar material:
- Mailing list.
- If you select this option, you will receive individual copies of
each message posted to the discussion. This is the best way to
remain current with material in the seminar, although it could
generate a large number of messages in your daily in-box.
- Mailing list digest.
- Under this option you will receive a single message each day
which contains all of the day's posting in the on-line discussion.
This makes for fewer messages in your in-box, but it delays your
receipt of new postings.
- Web access.
- Under this option you will not receive regular postings in
the form of personal e-mail. Rather, you will have to check
the project Web site to see what's new in the discussion.
To register for the seminar, please fill out the
on-line registration form.
This form requests the following information:
The first six items are required of all registrants. You
are encouraged to provide additional information, which
may be entered in the form of plain text or HTML,
allowing you to cite hot links to projects with which
you are affiliated. This registration information
will be made available via the project Web site.
- E-mail address
- City and state
- Area of employment
- Preferred distribution mechanism
- How you heard about the seminar
- Your background
- What you hope to learn
- Additional comment
If you have not already done so, please
The on-line registration form assumes that you have a
Web browser that can handle forms. If you don't, please write to
for a form which you can fill out and submit via e-mail. But please use
the on-line form if your browser is able to handle it.
Information on people who have
already registered is available on-line.
Participants will use a combination of electronic mail
and World Wide Web access to communicate with each other
during the period in which the seminar will be in operation.
The seminar's Web site includes a library of material
relating to the Universal Service provisions of the
Telecommuncations Act, including all Comments and Reply
Comments that have been submitted to the Federal
Communications Commission on this subject.
All on-line discussions will be archived and indexed to
be made accessible through the seminar's Web site. This
means that you can participate either through e-mail or
through the Web, as you prefer. The archived discussions
will be sent to the FCC as an ex parte submission on
behalf of Information Renaissance. In this manner, all
discussions in the seminar will become part of the FCC's
official record. In simple terms, this means that your
voice will be heard as part of the FCC's decision making
process on this important issue.
The seminar will take place during the five week period from
August 26 - September 27, 1996. Registration will
be open starting August 19, 1996. The library is currently
open for browsing, but material continues to be added to
it, and existing material continues to be proofread and
formatted. A more detailed seminar schedule will be added
to this section of the Web site shortly before the seminar
Initial funding for the on-line seminar is being provided by the
following companies and foundations:
Information Renaissance is grateful to these supporters for making
this unique activity available on the short timescale required
by the FCC's implementation schedule. Additional funding is
being sought from other telecommunications providers and private
foundations so that the seminar will be able to serve teachers,
librarians and other interested people from all regions
of the United States. If you work with a telecommunications
provider and would like to help Information Renaissance develop the
necessary support for this activity, please write to
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