The impact of the E-Rate program in one school district: Did a federal government program influence the adoption of an innovation at the local level?
Dempsey, Dennis F.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted to address unequal access to technology by K-12 schools and public libraries in the United States. The federal government has since spent over $21 billion in the E-Rate program. The purpose of the study was to document E-Rate expenditures and technology usage patterns and to investigate the effectiveness of the federal diffusion project in influencing technology behaviors in one rural school district in Oregon. Data collected on E-Rate reimbursements and the use of these funds were collected for the school district over a 10-year period. The amount of bandwidth utilization and the capability of individual school networks increased at each school each year over the 10-year period. The school district also found ways to meet the substantial paperwork requirements imposed by the federal agencies in charge of the program. At the end of 10 years, the school district addressed their long-term connectivity needs by installing and paying for their own district managed fiber network. The E-Rate program appeared to be successful in supporting diffusion of the technology innovations and was probably necessary for the school district to be able to utilize the Internet and the World Wide Web. Other factors may or may not have been as important as the E-Rate funds in diffusion of the innovations. Recommendations are made for future research.