from December 2002; Updated January 2003
When you pay a Universal Service Fund fee on your monthly phone bills, the money is supposed to help with things like Internet access for schools and libraries. But how well are those billions of dollars being used?
The FCC Office of Inspector General (OIG) issues a report every six months. For the period ending September 30, 2002 the report cover memo notes, "[...] OIG activity continued to focus on the Universal Service Fund activities because of continuing allegations of waste and fraud, and the results of beneficiary audits [...]" Nearly $5.2 million in questioned costs and $278,701 in unsupported costs were found. Almost $5.2 million of the combined costs had been disallowed and another $250,000 not yet decided upon. That could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
OIG states that most of the obstacles and concerns identified in their last report still exist. Here is a list of their oversight concerns:
Schools and Libraries (E-Rate) $1,464,229,000
How much more than $5 million of our phone fees could be going to waste?
On January 9, 2003 The Center for Public Integrity published a special report, Phone fund for schools, libraries riddled with fraud." The report contains very interesting details about the E-Rate fund and shocking revelations about some of the fraud uncovered. Here are some highlights: