E-Rate History
  In 1934, Congress established a policy that "a rapid, efficient, nation-wide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges" would be "available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States."

In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress expanded this principle to specifically include an obligation on telecommunications providers to make available discounted services to the nation's schools and libraries. This initiative became known as the E-rate program (or Education Rate) which is currently administered by the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).

The program provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. It is one of four support programs funded through a universal service fee charged to companies that provide interstate and/or international telecommunications services.

The Schools and Libraries Program supports connectivity - the conduit or pipeline for communications using telecommunications services and/or the Internet. Funding is requested under four categories of service: telecommunications services, Internet access, internal connections, and basic maintenance of internal connections. Discounts for support depend on the level of poverty and the urban/rural status of the population served and range from 20% to 90% of the costs of eligible services.