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Back to May Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 148 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS MAY 1998
Internet Hookup Group Under Fire
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WASHINGTON, DC - Wiring American schools and libraries to the Internet has been a much-publicized goal of the Clinton Administration, with Vice President Al Gore acting as the promotional mouthpiece. Congress obliged by passing the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which authorized the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to distribute $2.65 billion per year in subsidies to link schools, libraries, and rural hospitals to the Internet.

The FCC created the nonprofit Schools & Libraries Corp. to distribute the funds, and has come under attack following the completion of a General Accounting Office study requested by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), which found that it exceeded its authority in setting up the nonprofit group. Also at issue is the number of employees in the corporation and their salaries.

The head of Schools and Libraries Corp. is Ira Fishman, a Gore supporter who was deputy assistant for legislative affairs at the White House in 1995. Recruited by the FCC in 1996, he currently receives a salary of $200,000 per year plus a potential bonus of $50,000. His corporation has 13 fulltime employees and more than 80 outside contractors who help the nation's schools and libraries apply for the subsidies.

The complex Telecommunications Act did not specify how the FCC was to handle the Internet hookup program. Critics in Congress say the Schools and Libraries Corp. is carrying out a mandate that the FCC should have handled itself, and that the resulting uproar is evidence of deep-seated problems within the agency.


 
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