The FCC is partnering with the Institute of Museum and Library Services to raise awareness about changes in the E-Rate program that will ensure Tribal libraries have access to the program. The initiative started with outreach to all 574 Tribal leaders with information about E-Rate and opportunities for Tribal libraries to participate.
The initiative coincides with an FCC order—which was released last week – that clarifies the definition of “library” to resolve a “longstanding issue” about whether Tribal libraries were eligible for the program. It now is possible for Tribal libraries to apply in the E-Rate program application filing window that opened on January 12 and closes on March 22.
“The E-Rate program is a powerhouse that helps bring broadband to schools and libraries in every state across the country,” FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel said in a press release about the awareness efforts. “But for Tribal libraries, it was often difficult to make use of this funding because of the way the rules were written. We’ve now put new rules in place that make it clear Tribal libraries are eligible to participate, and we are eager to get the word out. I’m excited to partner with IMLS so we can raise awareness in Tribal communities about this important funding opportunity.”
The FCC will adopt new metrics to gauge the participation of Tribal libraries in the program, according to a press release issued when the order clarifying the rules was adopted. The order directed the commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Native Affairs and Policy to participate in the outreach initiative with the Universal Service Administrative Company.
The E-Rate program was established in 1996 as a universal service support mechanism aimed at ensuring schools and libraries can access telecommunications services at rates they can afford. Discounts, which range from 20% to 90%, depend upon the level of poverty of the applying library and whether the library is in a rural or urban area.