SHLB Thrilled with FCC E-rate Reforms, Simplifying Application Process for Schools and Libraries July 20, 2023
For Immediate Release
SHLB Thrilled with FCC E-rate Reforms, Simplifying Application Process for Schools and Libraries
Washington, D.C. (July 20, 2023) - Today, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a series of significant reforms to the E-rate program, with the aim of simplifying the application process for Tribal libraries and small and rural schools and libraries nationwide. These changes will mark the most substantial updates to the $2.8 billion E-rate program since 2014 and are expected to increase funding and enhance broadband connectivity for rural America.
In addition to clarifying the E-rate rules for Tribal applicants, the forthcoming Order provides an exemption from the competitive bidding process for libraries seeking less than $3,600 in Category Two support and waives the cost allocation rule for all schools and libraries if at least 90% of an applicant’s cost is for eligible E-rate uses. The cost allocation waiver could be particularly important, as SHLB and others requested a waiver of the cost allocation rule over two years ago. The Commission also adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which proposes even further improvements.
"We are thrilled to see the FCC taking steps to simplify the E-rate application process," said John Windhausen, Executive Director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. "For small schools and libraries, this decision is the most significant reform of the E-rate program since the modernization orders in 2014. SHLB has worked closely with SECA, ALA, and others to convince the FCC to adopt these changes, recognizing the immense impact they will have on underserved communities. These reforms will unlock new opportunities for Tribal libraries and many other small and rural schools and libraries, allowing them to secure vital funding and resources to serve their communities. We congratulate Chairwoman Rosenworcel and all the Commissioners for listening to our concerns and incorporating many of our suggestions. These reforms reflect our shared goal to bridge the digital divide one anchor institution at a time."
The Order’s adjustments to the E-rate program are particularly vital as many Tribal libraries and other small schools and libraries lack the necessary resources and expertise to navigate complex application requirements. By simplifying the process, it is expected that hundreds more schools and libraries will be able to apply for funding in the future, significantly expanding access to vital Internet connectivity.
The SHLB Coalition is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) public interest organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, D.C. and has a diverse membership of non-commercial and commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.