FCC Proposes Rules to Increase Tribal Participation in E-Rate

The Federal Communications Commission voted to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at its February 16, 2023 Open Meeting asking for public comment seeking comment on steps to encourage greater participation by eligible Tribal applicants in the E-Rate program, which provides high-speed internet to schools and libraries.  Members of the public may submit comments now through the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System referencing proceeding docket numbers 02-6, 96-45, and 97-21.    Comments are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register, and Reply Comments will be due 75 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The FCC specifically seeks comment on the following areas:

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on how to make the E-Rate program easier for eligible Tribal applicants to encourage greater program participation, including:

  • 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% to 90% 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.

Please Contact Assistant Chief Counsel Jamie Saloom at jamie.saloom@sba.gov with any questions or small business concerns.

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