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BellSouth to provide internet services

By Rebecca Burk / L’Observateur / March 21, 1998

RESERVE – St. John the Baptist Parish public school students will besurfing the Web beginning this fall. But it may cost the board $70,000 ifthey aren’t granted E-rate discounts of 80 percent.

The E-rate, an order made on May 8, 1997 by the Federal Communications Commission, allows schools and libraries to have affordable Internet access. The discounts are paid for from a $2.25 billion fund that the FCCestablished.

Discounts range from 20 to 90 percent, based on how many children are eligible for the free lunch program.

School board members agreed 9-1 to accept BellSouth’s bid for Internet services, including a T-1 connection at the central office server, with Richard DeLong not voting because he was absent. Russ Wise said heopposed the proposal because he read an article that concerned him insinuating the federal government may yank the E-rate within a matter of six months. He asked David Andras, computer programmer, if he couldguarantee that the E-rate would exist for the school system to take advantage of it.

“With the federal government you never know,” Andras said. “They changethe rules all the time.””You’d have to be Jesus Christ to know what the federal government is going to do,” C.J. Watkins, board member, said.Andras pressed members to accept the bid now so paperwork could be sent in to apply for the E-rate. He said they were on an April 15 deadline to betreated equally compared to other schools, but after that they would be on a competitive first come, first serve basis.

The board already authorized a $60,000 budget for Internet connection a few months ago.

The Internet connection will allow any computer in the school system that runs on Windows95 to have access. Andras said there are approximately1,600 computers in the school district.

Gerald Keller brought up the question of blocking out unsuitable sites, and Andras assured him a program was installed on the central office server to prevent students and employees from logging on to them.

“We can assure the board that we have taken every possible measure to make sure there is no improper Internet use at the schools,” finance director Nathan Stein said.

A motion was made by Aleitha Bardell to accept the bid and seconded by Watkins.

“We could not network properly and now is our chance,” Leroy Mitchell, board member, said. “This is for education.”

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