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FCC Approves Universal Service Reorganization

The Federal Communications Commission voted, 4-1, Nov. 19 to adopt a plan that will integrate the Schools and Libraries Corporation and the Rural Health Care Corporation into the Universal Service Administrative Company, as of Jan. 1, 1999.

Under the plan, USAC CEO Cheryl Parrino will be in charge of all of the universal service support mechanisms. USAC will be divided into three divisions, the Schools and Libraries Division, the Rural Health Care Division and the High Cost and Low Income Division. A committee of the USAC board of directors will oversee the operations of each division, and a decision of the committee will be binding on the full USAC board, unless it is overturned by a two-thirds vote. Each committee will prepare a budget that will be subject to review by the board.

The commission made only a few changes in the proposal that it originally circulated. After receiving complaints from the rural health community that their interests would be underrepresented in a reorganized USAC, the commission agreed to add one rural health care representative to the USAC board and to its Rural Health Care Committee.

All of the current members of the SLC board also hold seats on the USAC board. It is expected that the three committees will eventually share common office space in Washington, but the SLC has said that in most instances, the reorganization should be invisible to its client community.

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