FCC extends Year Two eRate implementation deadline

Responding to concerns raised by schools and libraries that they would be unable to complete the installation of internal connections by June 30, the Federal Communications Commission voted May 8 to extend the deadline for using Year Two eRate funds until Sept. 30.

In extending the deadline, the FCC concluded that, “all schools and libraries in the country [that] have received nonrecurring services discounts would benefit from a waiver of this deadline for Year Two. We further conclude that the public interest is best served if all schools and libraries receiving Year Two discounts … have the benefit of an extension of the deadline for their use of nonrecurring services from June 30, 2000 to Sept. 30, 2000.”

The FCC also addressed the situation of applicants whose contracts for nonrecurring services expired June 30, voting to permit them to extend existing contracts through Sept. 30.

“This is good news for eRate participants,” said Kate L. Moore, president of the Universal Service Administrative Co.’s Schools and Libraries Division, which administers the eRate. “Now, schools and libraries will have more time to work with their service providers to build the vital links between learners and the internet in libraries and schools across the nation.”

Study: Black-white internet divide still wide among students

Although black schoolchildren are catching up with their white peers in using computers at school, white students are still far more likely to use a computer to access the internet, according to a study by a Princeton University economist.

The study by Professor Alan B. Krueger, released May 16 on the university’s web site, showed that only 14.8 percent of African-American students and 11.7 percent of Hispanic students used computers to access the internet in school in 1997, while 20.5 percent of white students used the internet.

The gap between white students and black students in computer use, defined as any activity involving a computer keyboard, was cut by about half between 1993 and 1997.

In 1993, 56.5 percent of black students used computers, compared with 68.4 percent of white students. In 1997, 72.1 percent of black students at all grade levels used a computer, compared with 78.4 percent of white students. At the high school level, the difference was less than a percentage point.

While the narrowing of the overall black-white gap is positive, Krueger writes, “the more recent opening of a black-white gap in the use of the internet is a worrisome development. Black students seem to lag behind in using the latest technology in school, and their teachers seem to lag behind in their preparation to use the latest technology.”

Krueger said differences in family income, demographic characteristics, grade level, and region of residence account for part of the race gap. Also contributing may be a lack of resources to buy computers in schools attended mainly by minority students and lack of teacher training in use of computers.

The study was based on data from U.S. government school enrollment surveys in 1984, 1989, 1993, and 1997. It can be found at http://www.irs.princeton.edu/pubs/working_papers.html.

Five-year extension of internet tax moratorium clears House

Computer users could surf without fear of taxes that single out the internet for five more years under legislation passed by the House, part of a broader Republican agenda aimed at appealing to the high-tech industry.

The House voted 352-75 for the bill May 10, part of a Republican “eContract 2000” agenda intended to underscore their support for the high-tech sector, a prime campaign contribution battleground for both parties this election year. Other priority issues include repealing the 102-year-old 3-percent telephone excise tax, increasing visas for highly skilled foreign workers, and granting digital signatures the force of law.

“The high-tech industry is the future,” said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. “The last thing we want to do is impede our future with high taxes and excessive government regulation.”

The moratorium bill, sent to the House floor without a single hearing, would extend for five years a current ban on internet-specific taxes that expires in October 2001. The bill is designed to prevent states from taxing access to the internet or online purchases. It also would bar new taxes aimed specifically at online activity, such as the amount of time a user spends on the internet or how much material a user downloads.

Additionally, the bill would repeal a grandfather clause enacted in 1998 that allowed the states of Connecticut, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin and 16 cities to keep taxes they had in place at the time.

Opposing the five-year extension are state and local government officials, including 39 governors worried about future revenue losses for services ranging from roads to schools. Also against the bill are many traditional retailers, including big chains like Wal-Mart and Sears, which fear internet competitors will gain an unfair advantage due solely to tax laws.

Students accused of extorting teacher in internet deception

Three high school students posed as a 23-year-old woman on the internet to try to lure a teacher into engaging in cybersex so they could blackmail him, investigators say.

William M. Mack Jr. and Joshua Decker, both 18, and a 17-year-old whose name was not released were charged May 24 with attempted grand larceny and coercion.

All three are students at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in New York. The teacher’s name was not released.

The students are accused of sending instant eMail messages to the teacher and corresponding with him for weeks, trying to entice him into sending sexual messages. But the teacher didn’t participate, and the students revealed their identities to him, sheriff’s Deputy John D’Eredita said.

Later, the students threatened to distribute copies of the eMail unless the teacher paid them each $50, D’Eredita said.

North Syracuse Superintendent Jerome Melvin said the teacher told school officials about the incident. The school district has begun disciplinary proceedings against the students, he said.

The students did not use school computers in their correspondence with the teacher, D’Eredita said.