E-rate was created under President Bill Clinton, part of the sweeping Telecommunications Act of 1996. That legislation established the Universal Service Fund, a pool of money collected through a fee on long-distance phone service and then used to “help communities across the country secure access to affordable telecommunications services,” according to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) website. The idea was to prevent low-income communities and nonprofit educational institutions from being left behind in the Internet revolution.
Technology and telecom expenses are notoriously confusing, and it can be difficult to gauge how much is reasonable for schools to spend. Not helping matters, most people The Jewish Week interviewed who have been involved in E-rate, were reluctant to offer even ballpark figures for tech expenses.