Under the aegis of the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, there is a program known as the Schools and Libraries Program. The Universal Service Administrative Company or USAC is responsible to administer this program which falls under the care of the Universal Service Fund. The whole point of this program is to provide affordable and reliable Internet access and telecom services to libraries and schools across the USA. The program is otherwise known as E-Rate. The genesis of the program probably took place in 1997 when the FCC stated that Internet access and telecom services could be considered for discounted rates since they were an essential element in the dissemination of information for a library or school.
The program itself was authorized thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which essentially stated that location should not be a consideration for providing telecom services of a broad nature. Erate brings together telecom service providers who provide their telecom services in consonance with the guidelines laid down by the FCC. The FCC runs the program also by periodic evaluations to ensure that funding is being channeled correctly and that schools and libraries are using and disseminating the benefits that accrue to them thanks to Erate.
Interestingly, the Universal Service Fund or USF came into being in 1997 in order to help meet the aims and objectives of the Telecommunications Act, 1996. The entire program is a not-for-profit program which has gone a long way to enhance the impact that schools and libraries have on the American educational system. This is even more important when one talks about children who are in rural places or in locations which are off the beaten path so to speak. An economic disadvantage just because a child is studying in a particular location should not prevent him or her from getting access to higher education and better career opportunities.
If you are a telecom service provider or an Internet service provider then you can simply log onto the website of USAC and come to know how you can get involved in this program. On the other hand, if you are a school or library which is looking for funding and enhancing the telecom and Internet infrastructure, again logging onto the website of USAC can help you get all the information that you require to apply for membership into the program. The USAC has definitely made an impact on rural areas and enabled a lot of schools to connect to the mainstream as far as education and technological access goes.