In a highly unusual move, Tennessee has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to change eRate service providers before receiving a funding decision letter so 900,000 students statewide won't lose internet access.

Tennessee's 2002-2003 eRate funding is being withheld pending the outcome of a joint state and federal investigation into how contracts were awarded during the administration of former Gov. Don Sundquist. Tennessee officials want the FCC to pay another service provider, BellSouth Corp., to maintain internet access in the state's schools while the investigation continues, thereby circumventing the company currently managing the

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