Information on Participation in the E-rate Program (GAO-09-254SP, March 2009), an e-supplement to GAO-09-253

GAO-09-254SP: Published: Apr 27, 2009. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 2009.

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Mark L. Goldstein
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This e-supplement provides information on participation in the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Schools and Libraries Program Universal Service Support Mechanism--commonly known as the E-rate program--which makes funding available to schools and libraries for telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal wiring and components needed for data transmission. The e-supplement includes (1) our analysis of the rates at which eligible schools and libraries participate in the E-rate program and characteristics of participants and nonparticipants and (2) the questions asked and a summary of the answers given in a survey we conducted of participating schools and libraries. We compared 2005 data on school and library applicants provided by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which administers the E-rate program for FCC, with the most recent complete listings of schools and libraries from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, which were from the 2005-2006 school year for schools and 2005 for libraries. We used this comparison as a basis to determine the rates at which eligible entities participated in the E-rate program in 2005 and characteristics of participants and nonparticipants. The percentage estimates based upon matching of entity records have an overall error rate of 3.4 percentage points or less at the 95 percent level of confidence. The e-supplement presents participation rates for public schools, private schools, library branches, and library systems, as well as selected characteristics of participants and nonparticipants. We conducted a Web-based survey of schools and libraries that participate in the E-rate program to obtain information on how well participants navigate the program's requirements and procedures, the extent to which they use funds committed to them, and their views on how to improve the program. Our sample was drawn from about 31,000 applications submitted for funding year 2006, and based on this sample we sent questionnaires to a total of 697 individuals. We received a response rate of 78 percent. The results from our sample are weighted to reflect the population of beneficiaries that use the E-rate program. This e-supplement lists questions from the survey and the results, both in the aggregate and for each subgroup sampled-including schools, school districts, and libraries; urban entities and rural entities; and participants that received funding for internal connections and those that did not. We conducted our work in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology and agency comments on the draft report are contained in our report Telecommunications: Long-Term Strategic Vision Would Help Ensure Targeting of E-Rate Funds to Highest-Priority Uses, GAO-09-253 (Washington, D.C.: Mar 27, 2009).

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