When Congress authorized the $2.25 billion-a-year eRate program as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it was viewed as a means to provide affordable communications technology and services to eligible schools and libraries. Through the eRate, qualifying institutions can receive up to 90 percent off the cost of internet and telephone services–quite a boon for cash-strapped schools.

However, since its inception, the eRate has weathered its share of controversy. Critics in Congress have repeatedly tried to kill the program, and even its staunchest supporters have lamented the program’s Byzantine maze of paperwork and inconvenient deadlines–elements of bureaucracy no one enjoys.

Since eSchool News Online launched in late 1997–coincidently, around the same time the first-ever eRate filing window opened–our editors have painstakingly covered the entire spectrum of news and issues surrounding this groundbreaking federal program– and we aren’t about to stop now.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be taking our eRate coverage to even greater heights. On the eve of the program’s 10th anniversary, eSchool News Online–in conjunction with Funds for Learning LLC–is unveiling a brand-new utility covering the gamut of eRate issues. For those of you who don’t know, Funds for Learning is an eRate consulting firm that has long been at the forefront of eRate news, applications, and analysis. Our brand-new collaborative center will feature breaking eRate news and up-to-the-minute program updates with content from both eSchool News and Funds for Learning.

Our new eRate Center at eSchool News Online will be replete with information and advice on eRate processes, forms, rule interpretations, pending legislation, application deadlines, analysis, breaking eRate news–you name it. This new section of our web site will be an invaluable resource for anyone who wants–or needs–to navigate the confusing politics, processes, and potential of the eRate. If you have any stake in the eRate process, this center is the place for you.

It’s our goal that, through this new center, we will bring you the best that both eSchool News and Funds for Learning have to offer, in the best practical way for you. This new utility will be accessible through the Grants and Funding mini-site at eSchool News Online: http://www.eschoolnews.com/tsc/. Look for it in the coming months.

While I’m on the subject of the Grants and Funding section of our web site, I’d also highly recommend that you investigate the other rich content this section has to offer. Here, you’ll find a wealth of in-depth information: industry white papers, equipment donors, the latest news in educational technology funding, and–perhaps most importantly–links to brand-new grant opportunities and awards. In addition, you’ll find articles and advice from eSchool News columnist and grants expert Deborah Ward, whose grant-writing prowess has successfully raised millions of dollars in funding for school systems and other clients. Educator’s Resource Centers

In other online news, we’ve added a few new Educator’s Resource Centers to our web site since last month. If you haven’t already, you should definitely check them out: Professional Enrichment (sponsored by the National Education Association)

A major challenge for schools today is providing continued professional development for their teachers. With time, money, and resources already stretched to their limit, squeezing staff development alongside other priorities can seem like a daunting task. Our guide shows how schools and districts are using technology to help. http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/professionalenrichment/ One-to-One Computing (sponsored by Gateway Inc.)

For some educators, it’s the ed-tech equivalent of nirvana: every child having access to his or her own computing device in the classroom. The problem is, one-to-one computing is expensive–and implementing such a program isn’t easy. Fortunately, you can learn from the successes (and failures) of other schools by perusing the articles assembled here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/resources/reports/1to1computing/index.cfm These new ERCs join nearly a dozen others, encompassing such topics as presentation solutions, 24-7 learning communities, and more. Visit them all from here: http://www.eschoolnews.com/erc/Challenges