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March 6, 2000: This message was distributed by Papyrus News, a free e-mail distribution list on the global impact of information technology on language, literacy, and education. Feel free to forward this message to others, preferably with this introduction. For information on Papyrus News, including how to (un)subscribe or access archives, see <>.


For Immediate Release
March 2, 2000

Andy Carvin, Benton Foundation


Report by Benton Foundation and EDC/Center for Children and Technology Examines Impact in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee

Download the report:


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The E-Rate works. The first in-depth study of the federal program designed to help wire schools and libraries to the Internet shows that the E-Rate discounts on telecommunications services have had a significant impact on communications infrastructure in four large, urban school districts: Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; and Milwaukee, WI. Entitled "The E-Rate in America: A Tale of Four Cities," the study was released today by the Benton Foundation's Communications Policy and Practice Program and the Educational Development Center's Center for Children and Technology.

Funded by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, the study will be the subject of a leadership roundtable today at the Benton Foundation, where featured guests, FCC Chairman William Kennard, and Linda Roberts, director of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology Director, will discuss its conclusions.

A key component of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the E-Rate provides school districts and libraries significant discounts in buying telecommunications services. Thirty-six thousand applications have been filed in the E-Rate program's third year, and nearly 60 percent of those came from the country's neediest schools and libraries. By the end of 2000, it is expected that a total of nearly $6 billion will be invested with the largest benefits for the poorest communities.

"The E-rate is bringing the opportunities of the Information Age to all of our children," stated Larry Kirkman, president of the Benton Foundation. "It is the major public-interest commitment of the 1996 Telecom Act and is the largest new federal commitment to educational equity in a generation.

In each of the four city school districts, the study found network infrastructure deployment has accelerated and Internet access has significantly expanded. "The E-Rate appears to be a refreshing case of federal dollars well-spent," according to the Benton Foundation's educational technology specialist, Andy Carvin, who also served as editor of the report.

A serious challenge reported by local school systems in the study, however, is the need for resources to upgrade each school's basic infrastructure - including electrical systems and hardware, areas not covered under the E-Rate program - in order to handle the demands of an advanced telecommunications network.

"We found in most instances that 'school building basics' delayed the deployment of information technology funded by the E-Rate," said Dr. Margaret Honey, Director of the EDC/Center for Children and Technology. "While it is an obstacle that districts are fighting to overcome, it ranks as a major problem that can undermine implementation, particularly in the poorest schools and those with the most outdated infrastructures."

When examined as a whole, though, the report concludes that the E-Rate is making a real difference in urban schools: "The E-Rate is playing a major role in making it possible for these large, urban districts to get robust networking infrastructures into place," Dr. Honey continued. "Establishing that infrastructure is a crucial step toward making online resources and electronic communication part of the daily work of all teachers and students."


"The E-Rate in America: A Tale of Four Cities" may be downloaded for free on the Benton Foundation Web site at

Paper copies of the report may be purchased online through

The Benton Foundation, headquartered in Washington, D.C., seeks to shape the emerging communications environment and to demonstrate the value of communications for solving social problems. Through demonstration projects, media production and publishing, research, conferences, and grantmaking, Benton takes on the critical questions for democracy in the information age. For more information, visit the Benton Foundation Web site at, email or telephone (202) 638-5770.

Based in Chicago, the Joyce Foundation supports efforts to strengthen public policies to improve the quality of life in the Great Lakes region. Over the past five years, the Foundation has made $38.6 million in grants to support efforts to improve the public schools in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee. For information on the Foundation, please consult its web site at


Andy Carvin

Senior Associate, The Benton Foundation

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Last updated: March 7, 2000