Telecommunications and Information Technology:

Federal Programs That Can Be Used to Fund Technology for Schools and Libraries

T-HEHS-98-246: Published: Sep 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Sep 16, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the results of its work on federal programs that can be used to fund schools' or libraries' technology initiatives, focusing on: (1) what federal programs are available to provide federal or private funding for libraries and elementary and secondary schools for telecommunications and information technology and, for each, the fiscal year (FY) 1998 funding level; (2) what information is available about the portion of those funds that was used for technology; and (3) what the authorizing statute or legal authority is for each program to provide such funding.

GAO noted that: (1) at least 27 programs provide funding that may be used to purchase telecommunications and information technology for schools or libraries; (2) for example, four of the programs specifically target technology funding to schools or libraries; (3) three of these have a combined FY 1998 funding level totalling $565 million; (4) the other program--the universal service discount for schools and libraries, also called the e-rate--has a funding level of $1.925 billion for the first funding period (the 18-month period beginning January 1998); (5) under this program, discounts can be provided to eligible schools and libraries for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections; however, no discounts have yet been funded; (6) the remaining 23 programs do not specifically target technology for schools or libraries but can be used for this purpose; (7) some of these programs target schools or libraries but provide funds that can be used for other purposes as well as technology; (8) others target technology but not exclusively schools or libraries; (9) others do not target funds either to schools or libraries as recipients or technology as a program purpose, but funds may go to schools or libraries and may be used for technology; (10) except for programs targeted both to technology and to schools or libraries, limited information is available on the amounts spent for technology; (11) the FY 1998 funding levels for the more broadly targeted programs ranged from $905,000 to nearly $7.4 billion; (12) among the programs that GAO identified, more are available to schools than to libraries; (13) all the federal programs are authorized by law; and (14) some statutes specifically authorize technology or telecommunications programs; others have authorization broad enough to allow these uses.

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