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. 

The first round of comments is due April 24, 2023. Reply comments are due May 23, 2023.

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.