Senate Approves Second Accounting Rules Exemption for E-Rate

The U.S. Senate approved a second temporary exemption for Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program last week Reuters reported. The exemption, according to Reuters, eases the accounting rules governing the funds subsidizing Internet connections to libraries and schools.

“This is merely a short-term solution to a problem that must be resolved. I pledge to continue the fight for a permanent solution to ensure that neither our residential nor business phone bills rise,” Senator Olympia Snowe said in a statement to Reuters.

Contributions by telephone carriers would have been increased if this extension had not been introduced, Reuters reports. These costs would have been most likely passed onto consumers in their phone bills.

Reuters reports that the first one-year exemption was passed by the Congress to free up frozen subsidies. It was scheduled to end on December 31, 2005 by which time the Congress had planned to introduce legislation to deal with the E-Rate program’s accounting problems. The new exemption will expire on the same date in 2006, providing it is passed by the U.S. House and signed by the president.

In the meantime, changes are being made to the E-Rate program to allow institutions in the areas affect by Hurricane Katrina to re-submit their requests for E-Rate funds for this year, according to Government Technology. The highest priority will be assigned to these requests through the 2006 funding year in order to help assure the affected institutions received the deepest discounts available. Government Technology reports that the FCC estimates $132 million will be spent supporting institutions affected by the hurricane.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will also be providing immediate relief to the victim consumers and businesses of Hurricane Katrina. In total, the FCC plans to provide is $211 million in support from the Universal Service Fund (USF) through four existing programs: the E-Rate program, the Low Income program, Rural Health Care program, and the High Cost program according to Converge.

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