The E-Rate Debate

Schools like Roberts Elementary in Tallahassee offer kids a chance to explore the world, right at their fingertips using a federally financed program called E-Rate. The district provides this connection, yet that link is in danger.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson says, "Internet access is coming to a grinding halt, unless we can get this glitch ironed out in funding bill."

Nelson is rallying support for the E-Rate program that provides 20 to 90 percent discounts to schools to set up telecommunications and Internet access.

Leon County has received discounts, ranging from $200,000 to $1.5 million. School officials say cutting the program will cripple the district.

Bill Montford, Superintendent of Leon County schools, says, "If we loose E-Rate, it will reduce opportunities our kids have from [the] Internet. Kids won't have Internet access."

Yet critics argue the program is too complicated and easily abused by vendors, schools, and districts.

Senator Nelson says, "Abuse is minimal compared to goods being offered, so if the only solution is to fix accounting glitches or raise telephone rates, that’s a no-brainer."

But it is a decision that will impact how a student surfs the information superhighway.