Alaska asks for E-Rate exception

Alaska is asking the Federal Communications Commission to waive a rule so

that several rural communities can access Internet service via schools or

libraries funded through the federal E-Rate program.

The program, which subsidizes the cost of telecommunications services

and Internet access by as much as 90 percent, has helped connect schools

and libraries in the state's urban, high-cost and rural areas, Lt. Gov.

Fran Ulmer said.

But there are small, remote villages where residents don't have local

dial-up Internet access and cannot afford the high long-distance or toll

charges, she said.

The E-Rate program prohibits residents from tapping into the lower-cost,

higher-bandwidth telecommunications line that runs through their community's

school or library. Students cannot even use the Internet from home to do

homework.

"So it's created this digital divide within the village," Ulmer said.

Alaska filed a petition Jan. 29 requesting that the FCC waive its rule.

Under Alaska's proposal, only communities without toll-free or local

dial-up Internet access would be eligible to "dial in to a modem connected

to the local school or library and use the telecommunications service for

Internet access."

Alaska officials expect the FCC to review the petition and establish

a period of public comment.

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