The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released a report which identifies the E-rate program’s key trends in demand, participation rates among eligible entities, and assessed the FCC’s goals and program performance measures. The GAO’s research for this report began in July 2007 and culminates in the report’s release. The GAO talked with stakeholders, analyzed program data, and conducted an E-rate survey of program beneficiaries.
The GAO reports that 83 percent of public schools participate in the program, compared to 13 percent of private schools. The participation rate of libraries is lower, at 51% for library systems and 31 percent for individual library branches. The main reason cited for non-participation is the perception that the requirements of the program are too burdensome.
Conversely, those that participate in the E-rate program, in general, view the program as being easier to participate in than in the past.
Other highlights from the report:
- Program demand for Priority One services is growing and the GAO is not clear whether that emphasis represent the most efficient and effective use of program resources
- The GAO is concerned that schools and libraries are not utilizing about a quarter of the committed funds
- The GAO asserts that the FCC does not have adequate performance goals and its performance measures are inadequate
Acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps responded to the GAO report by stating that the “…program is absolutely essential to maintain the current level of Internet connectivity and to continue to provide schools and libraries access to improved telecommunications and information services as technology advances”. Copps further stated that he believed the E-rate program would be an essential part of the national broadband strategy, but does recognize the periodic review of the program goals are important and necessary.
Read the complete GAO E-rate Report.