The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will seek feedback from stakeholders and the general public on what it can do to encourage greater participation by eligible Tribal applicants in the E-Rate program, which provides high-speed internet to schools and libraries.
The FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on how to make the E-Rate program easier for eligible Tribal applicants to encourage greater program participation. Specifically, the FCC is looking for feedback on:
- Simplifying E-Rate forms and cost-allocation requirements;
- Providing an additional competitive bidding exemption for low-cost services and equipment for Tribal applicants;
- Increasing the maximum discount rate for Category Two services from 85 percent to 90 percent for Tribal applicants;
- Allowing Tribal college libraries that serve a dual role by also serving as the Tribal community’s public library to be eligible for E-Rate support;
- Providing an extended or separate application filing window for Tribal libraries to align with their Tribal procurement requirements and approval processes;
- Increasing the Category Two $25,000 funding floor for Tribal applicants;
- Adding a Tribal representative to the Universal Service Administrative Company’s
- Board of Directors, which administers the program for the FCC; and
- Considering other potential reforms to encourage greater participation by Tribal or similarly situated small or rural applicants, particularly if they face barriers that impede equitable access to the E-Rate program.
In addition to seeking public feedback, the FCC has recently taken additional steps to encourage Tribal participation in the E-Rate program. In October of last year, the FCC launched a pilot program to make it easier for Tribal libraries to apply for and receive broadband funding through the E-Rate program. The FCC also adopted an order in January of last year which updated the rule in the E-Rate program to clarify that Tribal libraries can access funding to provide affordable, highspeed internet access in their communities.