Sen. Conrad Burns Press Release.
Re: Schools and Libraries Corporation.
Date: July 16, 1998.
Source:  Office of Sen. Conrad Burns.  This document was created by scanning a fax copy of the original, and converting it into an HTML document.  The letterhead graphics were lost in the conversion process.

        U. S. SENATOR               MONTANA
Conrad Burns

For immediate release:
Thursday, July 16, 1998
Contact: Matt Raymond
(202) 224-8150
Ben O'Connell
(202) 224-6137

Burns Protects Universal Service
Schools and Libraries Program Raising Rural Telephone Costs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Montana Senator Conrad Bums today criticized the use of universal service funds for wiring schools and libraries to the Internet during a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

"Universal service has historically meant providing telecommunications services to all Americans, regardless of geographical location," Bums said. "I am concerned that the FCC has expanded this longstanding definition to an extent that has delayed maintaining true universal service. While I agree that providing Internet access to schools and libraries is a worthy goal, it was never meant to be part of universal service as it has always been known.

"Because of its continuous efforts to implement the schools and libraries program as part of universal service, the FCC has not paid adequate attention to the establishment of the high-cost fund. Already this year over $625 million has been collected to connect schools and libraries to the Internet.

"Instead, I have proposed cutting the outdated 3 percent excise tax on telephones in half and using the remaining half to connect schools and libraries to the Internet. This proposal would cut taxes and provide Internet access for schools without jeopardizing universal service.

"The 1996 Telecommunications Act set very clear timetables for implementing universal service, and originally called for the universal service fund to be implemented by May 1997. Unable to meet that date, the FCC postponed the development of high-cost funding until January 1999. Now, the FCC may delay the high-cost fund until July 1999. This is a problem because many of the implicit subsides that have helped keep rates affordable are being reduced. I believe it is now time for the FCC to get back to its main item of business, establishing a high-cost fund that will keep rural rates affordable by the current Jan. 1. 1999 deadline."

Bums is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications.