FCC Decision Allows Private Colleges to Hook Up With State Telecommunications Network

“Governor Gary Locke has hailed a Federal Communications Commission order allowing private colleges to join the state’s educational telecommunications network as a big win for education in Washington that will lead to lower costs and improved services for the independent colleges. Our private colleges perform an important public mission, said Locke. This ruling means they can lower the cost of their technology and telecommunications – and their unique resources can be available online to all the state’s colleges. The FCC on Monday granted the state’s request to waive its June 1997 order that states would lose funding eligibility under the federal e-rate program if they connected private entities to state telecommunications networks. The order prevented independent colleges from participating in Washington’s educational K-20 Network, so-named because it serves students and educators from kindergarten through graduate school.In its petition to the FCC, the Washington State Department of Information Services argued that non-profit colleges were different than private businesses because of their educational focus and public mission. Dr. David Spangler, president of St. Martin’s College in Lacey, Wash. and a member of the K-20 Educational Network Board, said, We are pleased with the ruling and appreciative for all the work and effort that Steve Kolodney and others at the Department of Information Services did to make the K-20 Network system universal for education in Washington. Universality is what the legislature anticipated when they put the educational network together.The Washington State Legislature created the K-20 Network in 1996 to provide high-speed video, data and Internet services to public colleges and universities, private four-year colleges, educational service districts and school districts throughout the state. By allowing the educational network to connect the independent baccalaureates without penalty, the new FCC ruling offers the potential for expanded learning opportunities throughout our state’s education system, said Kolodney, director of DIS and chair of the K-20 Educational Network Board. And the e-rate discounts will continue to help our schools provide digital learning tools at a reasonable cost. Schools connected to the K-20 Network can apply for discounts of 20 to 90 percent on the cost of services they receive from telecommunications carriers. These e-rate subsidies come from a $2.25 billion federal program to subsidize technology and telecommunications in schools. Washington public schools receive more than $25 million annually for technology and telecommunications under the federal program.”