I doubt the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) timed its second E-rate Modernization Order to correspond with the holiday season, but the timing has provided a variety of opportunities for analogies for those of us writing about the program. So while we at the ALA Washington Office are transitioning from 2014 to 2015, we are getting to work on our E-rate resolution for 2015 and transitioning from “pre-order” advocacy to “post-order” implementation. Because, while the FCC is finished with the orders and the rule changes that were adopted in both July (pdf) and December (pdf), as FCC Chairman Wheeler noted in his statement during the December Commission meeting, “Today is just the end of the beginning of our effort to get true high-speed broadband to all of the nation’s schools and libraries. In the months ahead, there will be a lot of heavy lifting to implement these changes by Commission staff, by our friends at USAC, education and library organizations, and by schools and libraries across the country.”
Our first order of business is getting the word out to libraries about the changes and opportunities they provide libraries. We had a good start to the year with a lively webinar in collaboration with the Public Library Association (PLA). The webinar gave an overview of the major changes (including greater funding certainty thanks to $1.5 billion in new funding) to the E-rate program and provided an opportunity for questions ranging from the technical to the big picture. The archive of the webinar is available below.
The new funding and major changes in the program will only help our nation’s libraries and communities, though, if we apply. The application window for the 2015 funding year opens Wednesday, and ALA will continue to build a strategy for supporting the library community in the coming weeks and months, and into the next E-rate funding year. Along with PLA, ALA’s E-rate Task Force, and our other partners, we aim to provide tools that will help libraries navigate the changes to the program and be successful E-rate participants.
Look for more information after the Midwinter Conference and follow the conversation using #libraryerate. We welcome your questions and input as we move forward in our work to navigate the coming transition period to a “New E-rate.” As we said in one of our numerous draft filings during the public comment period, the order cannot be merely words on a page. We agree with Chairman Wheeler that “ultimately we will be judged by the tangible results delivered to students, teachers, librarians, and library patrons… Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and complete the job.”
Our sleeves are rolled up. Are yours?