California Educational Data Processing Association
The DataBus - Vol. 37, No. 3
April-May, 1997

Telecommunications Services--50 Percent Off Without Clipping Coupons

Program: California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) provides reduced connectivity rates for schools and libraries within California.

Way Jane Wong, California Department of Education

MONEY! Although I try to minimize the importance of money at times, it will always surface as an important element to meeting a goal. I am almost always in constant pursuit of more favorable ways to conserve my stash of cash by looking at what expenses I can reduce. I would rather spend more money on the many pleasures of life than to have it gobbled up by costs to sustain a sterile environment. Wouldn't it be nice if someone offered to help pay for a portion of your monthly phone bill? That could translate into MORE MONEY for other purposes! Well, the SCHOOLS and LIBRARIES can count their lucky stars! Schools and libraries now have a terrific opportunity to potentially reduce some telecommunications costs. So how can schools benefit?

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) created a program called the California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) which began on February 1, 1997. A telephone usage surcharge supports this $40 million annual program. CTF subsidizes the telecommunications carriers to provide a 50 percent discount to all eligible K-12 schools and libraries. The telecommunications services that have been identified as being eligible for the 50 percent discount are 1 MB (measured business rate), switched 56, ISDN, T1, and DS-3-services, or their functional equivalents. For example, if your school is paying a monthly ISDN service line charge of $75 per month, your cost would be $37.50. The carrier would be reimbursed from CTF for the difference. These discounts are applicable for new services, existing contract services, or tariffed services. However, the discount does not apply to installation or usage costs.

You should check with your existing carrier, or their competitors, to determine the status of your telecommunications services. If you subscribe to services that qualify for the discount or could potentially qualify, your carrier is responsible for helping you complete the application and submitting the form to the CPUC. For example, if you use frame relay, and frame relay is not one of the services specifically identified as an eligible service to be discounted, it has the potential to be discounted. It is up to the carriers who offer the services, to file a tariff with the CPUC to request that their frame relay service be considered a functional equivalent. The carriers have nothing to lose, because if the CPUC grants their request, they will be reimbursed from CTF. However, if the carrier does nothing, and you don't take the initiative to inquire, your school may lose out on a service that could potentially be discounted. This could translate into money saved that could be used for other purposes.

Apparently, the CPUC has not received as many application requests from the schools/school districts as anticipated, to take advantage of CTF. There was initial concern that there would be an avalanche of requests, that the annual designated funding amount may be insufficient, and schools should realize that the discounts would be applied on a first-come-first-served basis. So far, none of this has happened. If you are a school that is aware of CTF, but you are not participating in this program discount, I would be very interested in knowing your reasons for not participating. If you are participating in CTF, let me know what you are saving!

Check it out! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to E-mail me.

Way Jane Wong is with K-12 Network Planning at the California Department of Education and may be reached at (916)657-4500 or by e-mail at .

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