FCC Encourages Greater Participation by Tribal Applicants in E-Rate Program

On February 16, 2023, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking1 seeking comment on steps to encourage greater participation by eligible Tribal applicants in the E-Rate program, which provides high speed internet to libraries and elementary and secondary schools at a discounted rate. While the Commission has engaged in outreach efforts in the past year, it also recognized that Tribal communities still encounter barriers that limit access to the E-Rate program, and only 12% of Tribal libraries have ever applied for E-Rate funding. Accordingly, the Commission is seeking comment on the following measures to increase participation:

Whether to allow Tribal college libraries that serve a dual role by servicing the Tribal community as a public library to be eligible for E-Rate support.
Ways to streamline and simplify the E-Rate forms and cost-allocation requirements.
Increasing the maximum discount rate for Category Two services (that provide connectivity within schools and libraries) from 85% to 90% for Tribal applicants, and increasing the $25,000 funding floor for Tribal schools and libraries.
Increasing Tribal representation on the USAC Board of Directors by adding a Tribal community representative director.
Other reforms the FCC should consider.

Comments and Reply Comments will be due 45 days and 75 days after publication in the Federal Register, respectively. If you are interested in filing Comments, please contact Dee Herman at [email protected] or Shannon Forchheimer at [email protected].
[1] Schools and Libraries Universal Support Mechanism, CC Docket No. 02-6, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Feb. 16, 2023).