Even though the more than 30,000 libraries and schools that have applied for telecommunications discounted under the Universal Services Fund stand to lose, a coalition of consumer groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, have appealed to the FCC to delay the scheduled July 1, 1998 distribution of some $2.25 billion in discounts. The consumer groups want the FCC to cut long-distance access charges (the fees long distance carriers pay to local phone companies to begin and end long distance calls) by at least $1 billion before any library or school is extended a discount on telecommunications hardware, software, or services.
If the effort is successful, the amount of money available to libraries and schools may be reduced by as much as 44 percent. With the average application valued at $10,000, those libraries and schools that have applied should be prepared to make up the missing $4,400 from other sources. The FCC will probably reach a decision at its June meeting.