In the information age, the human beings that industry needs are those who can do their own thinking, get actively involved, work in teams, and be innovative, not merely industrious. The problem is, the factory model school, which doesn't encourage those qualities, is still with us and needs to be replaced with a new kind of schooling that does.
Shortly after her election in 1994, Governor Christine Todd Whitman appointed an Economic Master Plan Commission (the "Commission") to determine the overall economic needs of New Jersey. In its January 1995 report to the Governor, the Commission concluded that a sophisticated, statewide telecommunications network will enable New Jersey to improve quality and parity in education and health care, while reducing costs and providing efficiencies. Such a network will help create jobs and begin to close the gap between those who are economically and socially disadvantaged and those who are not.
A little more than a year later, on February 7, 1996, the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law, ushering in a new era of competition and consumer choice in the telecommunications industry. While focusing on the benefits of competition, the 1996 Act also highlights the need for new universal service initiatives to insure that all citizens have access to critical telecommunications services.
Among the 1996 Act's universal service requirements is the mandate that telecommunications carriers provide advanced services to schools and libraries at a discount, affording the promise of distance learning opportunities and Internet access to all schools and libraries throughout the nation. The 1996 Act also recognizes that State action is appropriate, and, even necessary, to fulfill the national promise of ubiquitous access to the Information Superhighway.
Following passage of the 1996 Act, the New Jersey State Senate convened the Senate Special Study Committee on the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, chaired by State Senator William L. Ciesla, to investigate the impact of the 1996 Act on education in New Jersey. Senator William L. Gormley, a member of the Special Study Committee, at a special hearing on July 18, 1996, requested that the Ratepayer Advocate assist the mandate of the Committee by proposing specific models, funding mechanisms and dollars needed to insure that all New Jersey schools and libraries have access to advanced telecommunications technology.2 The concern of the Senate Special Committee included both the costs of access to advanced telecommunications services and the cost of hardware, software, training and maintenance.
In response to Senator Gormley's request, the Division of the Ratepayer Advocate embarked upon a special inquiry to identify and quantify the costs -- hardware, software, interconnection, training, support and maintenance -- of providing telecommunications technology to all New Jersey schools and libraries as a means of assisting policy makers in their decisions concerning funding. This report also identifies key cost reduction and revenue initiatives that can have a potentially significant impact on the proposed costs. The cost impact of funding the tariff discounts for connection to all schools and libraries which also affects these costs is part of an ongoing generic proceeding at the Board.
Finally, we acknowledge the expertise and contribution of Lee McKnight, Associate Director, MIT Research Program on Communications Policy, Al Zeisler, President, Integrated Technology Education Group, and David Gingold, research associate, MIT Research Program on Communications Policy, who provided guidance regarding technology issues and who analyzed cost data concerning New Jersey schools and libraries. Their assistance was invaluable. We also recognize the contributions of the New Jersey Department of Education, with special appreciation and thanks to Julia Stapleton.
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2 See Transcript, pp. 21 - 22, 28, Public Hearing before the Senate Special Study Committee on the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 (July 18, 1996). Back