E-Rate Modernization: The Process Continues
On July 11, FCC Commissioners began the approval process to modernize the nation's E-Rate program. The current program will be maintained at $2 billion per year, with an additional $2 billion in funding over the next two years. The new funds will be allocated to public libraries based on a formula of $2.30/square foot and can be used to build out internal connectivity - i.e. Wi Fi infrastructure. This new formula will be in place for two years.
During a special webinar for ULC members on July 15, Reed Hundt and John Beahn, ULC's pro bono legal advisors, stressed that the process for modernizing the entirety of the E-Rate program is ongoing and there is ample opportunity for ULC leaders to inform and influence critical decisions - such as the funding formula for libraries beyond 2016/17.
While the new rate of $2.30/square foot expands funding to libraries, there is still a need to 1) establish a reliable baseline of the real costs that libraries incur to provide both internal and external connectivity, and 2) create a better formula that serves as the mechanism for allocating funds to libraries. The formula must be simple to calculate and should reflect the size of a library's service area, the relative income of its service population and the costs of connectivity.
In the days ahead, ULC will keep members informed and engaged in this critical process. There will be a continued need for library leaders to provide data and analysis that can be used to make the make the case for more funding and better funding mechanisms to the FCC, the "court of public opinion" and Congress. Through informed, thoughtful and insistent advocacy, library leaders can influence the process and be heard on behalf of their local communities and patrons.