The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted a new order that provides Tribal libraries and other E-Rate participants expanded access to funding to obtain affordable, high-speed broadband services and equipment to connect students and library patrons with online learning opportunities.

“We are taking steps to make it easier for Tribal Libraries to participate in the E-Rate program,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Remember these are facilities in some of the most remote areas, where broadband is scarce and community access at the library is essential. So we are cleaning up our rules and streamlining our process so that more Tribal libraries can seek support through E-Rate.  To this end, we expand eligibility for more Tribal facilities.”

In a statement, the FCC said that by adopting the Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the commission is making changes to provide Tribal communities and other E-Rate participants with greater access to the E-Rate program.

“I was excited when we adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking earlier this year to update our E-Rate rules – supporting those living on Tribal lands is imperative given how many struggle with access to broadband,” FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said in a statement when the new order was adopted. “In approving the Notice, I wrote that I hoped that we could move quickly, and I’m proud that we have done just that here today. I strongly support today’s item, which continues our efforts to expand broadband access in unserved and underserved locations, making the Tribal college and university libraries that serve a wider public eligible for E-Rate funding.”

Specifically, the new Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking updates include:

  • Granting E-Rate eligibility to Tribal College and University libraries that serve as public libraries in their communities;
  • Creating an exemption to the competitive bidding requirements for libraries seeking E-Rate support for category two services that total a pre-discount price of $3,600 or less per library per funding year;
  • Increasing the maximum category two discount rate to 90 percent and the category two funding floor to $55,000 for Tribal libraries;
  • Providing guidance on cost allocation issues experienced by applicants;
  • Adopting a formal definition of “Tribal” within the E-Rate program to better identify Tribal applicants seeking E-Rate funding;
  • Amending the Commission’s E-Rate program rules to add a Tribal community representative to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Board of Directors;
  • Directing USAC to provide increased outreach and training to Tribal applicants; and
  • Seeking comment on ways to further simplify the E-Rate program for all applicants.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs