E-rate, or Universal Services Schools and Libraries program, is a discount set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) that schools and public libraries receive on telecommunications, internet and internal connections. The program, started in 1997, underwent a major overhaul and modernization effort in 2014. ULC staff, our members and a team of leading telecommunications officials developed recommendations for modernizing the program so that larger libraries receive additional discounts on Category 2 services including connectivity to devices within buildings and broadband distribution services and equipment. 

Through these efforts the discount rate was increased from pre-modernization rates of $1 per square foot amount to $5 per square foot for eligible libraries. In 2015, ULC will work closely with our members to ensure that they secure these additional dollars for technology improvements in their libraries.

USAC Extends 2015 E-rate Application Filing Deadline to April 16, 2015
March 12, 2015
On Thursday, March 12, 2015 the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) extended the FY2015 E-rate application filing window by three weeks, with the new deadline set for April 16, 2015. FCC Form 471 applications must be submitted on or before 11:59:59 pm EDT on Thursday, April 16, 2015 to be considered in-window. Read the USAC News Brief for full details on the extension.

USAC News Brief on FY2015 filing extension >>

FCC Releases Full E-rate Modernization Order
December 22, 2014
On December 19, 2014, the FCC released its full E-rate Modernization Order. You can now read the full Order here. Click here to see if your library is eligible for the increased funding per square foot (IMLS categories 11, 12 and 21).

FCC Complete Summary of the E-rate Modernization Order >>
Full E-rate Modernization Order >>
E-rate Modernization Means Significant Revenue for Members (Infographic) >>
List of Libraries Eligible for Increased E-rate Funding Per Square Foot >>
Universal Services Administration Company (USAC) E-rate Modernization Order Overview >>

Summary of the Order by Robert Bocher, Fellow with the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) >>

FCC Votes to Increase E-rate Funding in December Open Commission Meeting
December 11, 2014
On December 11, 2014, the FCC approved a $1.5 billion increase in annual funding for the E-rate program from $2.4 to 3.9 billion. The E-rate Modernization Order was approved in a 3-2 vote in an Open Commission Meeting which featured testimonials from library and school representatives from across the country, including Executive Director of the D.C. Public Library Richard Reyes-Gavilan.

Further, the FCC addressed the importance of providing adequate Wi-Fi services to the country’s residents who reside in urban and suburban communities and rely on the public library as their only source of Internet connectivity. The increased funding will help eligible libraries enhance their Wi-Fi networks by allowing them to apply for the program at a rate of $5 per square foot of building space, a significant gain from the $1 per square foot rate proposed earlier in the year. By providing increased funding for Wi-Fi service to the library systems that serve the greatest share of the U.S. population, the FCC recognizes the critical need for connectivity in the 21st century and the library’s role in meeting this need.

View the FCC Meeting Recording, Agenda and Supporting Documents>>
Press release>>

ULC Submits Ex Parte Filing to FCC on E-Rate Qualifications
December 3, 2014
On November 28, 2014, ULC submitted an Ex Parte Filing with the FCC on behalf our members. The filing applauded the FCC's recognition of the unique funding needs that large city libraries encounter to provide robust WiFi services in their communities, but asks that the FCC consider a definition of those that qualify for increased funding based on WiFi utilization rates to fund those who need it most. We further state that if the FCC choses to use population as the measurement, that they expand it to beyond the largest library systems to include larger systems that serve the majority of WiFi users. ULC will be following the E-Rate news closely and look forward to the outcomes of the FCC meeting on December 11.

Read ULC's Ex Parte letter to the FCC>>
Read an analysis of selection criteria proposed in the Ex Parte filing>>

FCC Chairman Wheeler Announces Plan to Increase E-rate Funding
November 19, 2014
On Monday, November 17, 2014, FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler announced his plan to take the next step in the E-rate modernization process. Wheeler’s proposal outlines a plan to increase the annual E-rate cap by $1.5 billion, increasing the budget from $2.4 to 3.9 billion. According to the FCC, the increase would allow for greater investment in high-speed network infrastructure, particularly fiber optic cabling, to meet the demands of expanding Wi-Fi connectivity in libraries and schools. The improved data infrastructure would increase high speed access in rural and low income communities that struggle to support the demands of modern connectivity and bandwidth goals. The growth will be a combination of payments for costly one-time non-recurring infrastructure upgrades and increasing monthly recurring charges for Internet access. The FCC believes this will increase each phone bill by just less than $2 per year. To learn more about the proposal, read this blog post from FCC Managing Director Jon Wilkins. The blog includes links to an E-rate Data Update and press fact sheet.

ULC Research on E-rate Filed with FCC
September 24, 2014 
Last week, ULC filed new research on large library systems with the FCC. The report shows the largest 5% (by size or by usage) of library systems support 63% of total Wi-Fi users in public libraries. For these large systems, square footage alone is not an equitable predictor of Wi-Fi costs.The study, commissioned by ULC and undertaken by a Stanford University researcher, is based on data collected by the Institute of Museum and Library Services on public libraries and has been shared with them.

ULC is urging the FCC to better understand not just the largest public library systems, but the needs across all public libraries - urban, suburban, towns and rural communities. In addition to the research, our filing asks the FCC to consider what is needed to create an E-Rate system that serves all libraries no matter size or location. 

ULC strongly believes equitable access to adequate E-Rate funds across all types of public libraries is essential to building healthy communities across the United States. Read the letter (PDF) from Susan Benton, ULC president and CEO, that was part of the filing.

Governor Pens Letter to Obama Urging E-Rate Support
September 24, 2014 
Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy recently wrote President Obama to thank him and the FCC for the recent order involving the modernization of E-Rate.

In regards to the upcoming FCC proceeding, Malloy noted that E-rate is a "topic of equality and opportunity." Further, Malloy wrote, "My goal for Connecticut is to ensure that robust Internet access is available to every student and teacher in every school and to every person in every library. Internet access in our schools and libraries should be as reliable and fast as in businesses and homes on the leading edge of Internet connectivity. Specifically, I would like to see one gigabit per second connectivity to every school and library building, and at least five megabit per second Wi-Fi connectivity in every room in these buildings at time of peak use.

Malloy adds, "In addition, I would like to see every school and library connected to each other, so that they can share digitized material." Read the letter here (PDF).

ULC, ALA and Other Groups Sign Joint Letter to Chairman Wheeler
Read the joint letter here>>
July 16, 2014
ULC and several organizations joined together to help guide the FCC in its E-Rate moderization effort formula. Those joining ULC, were the American Library Associaton, The Association for Rural & Small Libraries,  the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, and the Public Library Association.

ULC Urges FCC to Ensure Universal Broadband for Public Libraries
ULC e-Rate Letter to FCC >>
Document A: Library Systems Consist of Urban, Suburban and Rural Libraries >>
June 9, 2014
As the process to modernize the U.S. E-Rate program continues, ULC has submitted a letter to the FCC underscoring two critical points. The first, “Public Libraries = Education” affirms the essential role of the library as a 21st century educational institution and points out that libraries have been the fundamental “go-to” institution in recent years for job seekers of all ages and occupations. The second point, “Connectivity for All Public Libraries – No Matter the Location,” emphasizes that all public libraries require immediate and comprehensive support in acquiring broadband connectivity.

ULC Members Urge E-Rate Fixes to Ensure Digital Access
Press Release >>
ULC Member Letter to FCC
May 21, 2014
Members of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC) have called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to level the E-Rate playing field to enhance public libraries’ access to funds that will help provide a digital future for all Americans.

FCC E-Rate Modernization Workshop
Podcast (04:34:10) >>
May 11, 2014

If you were unable to attend or live stream this event in DC, we encourage our public library colleagues to listen in and continue the E-Rate conversation.

ULC Recommendation/Filing
ULC Filing # 4 >>

April 21, 2014
ULC submitted its reply to the FCC on E-Rate. A two page summary at the beginning of this document provides a snapshot of ULC's comments.

IMLS Hearing on Modernizing E-Rate
FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler >>

Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt >>

April 17, 2014

IMLS hosted a public hearing, “Libraries and Broadband: Urgency and Impact,” to examine the need for high-speed broadband in America’s libraries. Current Federal Communications Commission Chairman Thomas Wheeler and Reed Hundt, former FCC Chairman, offered persuasive analyses of what needs to be done to modernize the nation’s E-Rate program so that all citizens have equitable access to technology as a means of education and productive lives. The Benton Foundation distilled their presentations into these cogent summaries that can be used as talking points for local and national advocacy efforts.

ULC Recommendation/Filing
ULC Filing #3 >>

April 7, 2014
ULC submitted a filing to the Federal Communications Commission with refined recommendations for strengthening the U.S. E-Rate program so that public libraries remain “the primary free public Internet access point in civil society.”

ULC E-Rate Fact Sheet
Modernizing the E-Rate Program >>
February 2014

ULC E-Rate White Paper
Modernizing the E-Rate Program to Support the Public Library Role in Lifelong Learning >>
February 2014

Connected_CommNew America Foundation Forum Podcast
Co-sponsored by Urban Libraries Council
Connected Communities in the Age of Digital Learning:
A Vision for a 21st century E-Rate Program >>

Podcast published February 27, 2014 (run time 01:38:17)

Politico Pro, an online news magazine
Libraries Angle for Bigger Role in E-Rate >>
Article by Caitlin Emma
12/02/13 5:05 AM EST