The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism--also known as the E-rate program--is a significant source of federal funding for information technology for schools and libraries, providing about $2 billion a year. As requested, GAO assessed issues related to the E-rate program's long-term goals, including (1) key trends in the demand for and use of E-rate funding and the implications of these trends; (2) the rate of program participation, participants' views on requirements, and FCC's actions to facilitate participation; and (3) FCC's performance goals and measures for the program and how they compare to key characteristics of successful goals and measures. To perform this work, GAO analyzed data going back to the first year of the program, surveyed a sample of participating schools and libraries, reviewed agency documents, and interviewed agency officials and program stakeholders.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Federal Communications Commission||1. To better provide a foundation for effective management of the E-rate program and to ensure that program funds are used efficiently and in a manner to support desired program outcomes, the Federal Communications Commission should review the purpose and structure of the E-rate program and prepare a report to the appropriate congressional committees identifying FCC's strategic vision for the program; this report should include the program's long-term goals, whether the vision can be achieved using the existing program structure (e.g., the priority rules and discount matrix), and whether legislative or regulatory changes are necessary.|
|Federal Communications Commission||2. To better provide a foundation for effective management of the E-rate program and to ensure that program funds are used efficiently and in a manner to support desired program outcomes, the Federal Communications Commission should provide information in its annual performance plan on (1) the amount of undisbursed funding associated with commitments that have expired and why these funds were not disbursed, and (2) the actions taken to reduce the amount of undisbursed funding and the outcomes associated with these actions.|