Since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the Sixth Report & Order on the E-rate program at the end of September, the library community has closely reviewed it to understand the specific changes made to the program, how they will be implemented, and their overall impact on program applicants. Because of the scope of the Order and the fact that it affects the next E-rate funding year beginning July 1, 2011, ALA is spending significant time identifying areas of the Order and the Eligible Services List that are unclear.
ALA is seeking clarification on these items from the FCC to ensure that applicants are well equipped with correct information as they go through the application process. One such issue is related to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Currently, libraries applying for E-rate discounts for only telecommunications services are exempt from the requirements of CIPA. Language in this Order is inconsistent with previous Orders on this matter and seems to call this practice into question.
Additionally, there are a number of questions related to the renewed eligibility of leased dark fiber and the provision of both dark and lit fiber from both telecommunications and non-telecommunications carriers. Questions are also being raised related to competitive bidding and the relationship between providers and applicants. To prevent unintentional non-compliance on the part of applicants, ALA has brought these and other concerns to the attention of FCC staff. FCC staff is also actively seeking input from interested parties so that they can address any other areas of concern.
ALA anticipates that the Commission will issue the further guidance necessary for the changes in the Order to be implemented successfully. The end result for applicants is an E-rate program that allows more applicant flexibility in selecting the most cost-effective eligible solutions for their telecommunications needs. The ALA will continue to work with the FCC and will update membership as more information about the upcoming changes to E-rate becomes available.
Assistant Director, OITP