Keep your Wi-Fi signal strong: defend E-rate

FCC Building We have been anticipating some changes would take place after Chairman Pai took the helm of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC), and wondered about where he might take the E-rate program. During his time as Commissioner, while supportive of the intent and goals of the program, he was less than enthusiastic about many of the program changes as a result of the Modernization.

At the end of September the FCC launched a Public Notice asking for input about Category 2 (C2) funding. Specifically, they want to know whether libraries are using their allotted budgets and if it meets their needs. Since the FCC’s E-rate Modernization in 2014, library applicants have been doing their darndest to receive their share of the $3.9 billion available for libraries and take advantage of the program changes that were put in place. These changes helped libraries increase broadband capacity and improve Wi-Fi access in their buildings.

While we know there are many reasons why libraries do or do not request funding for C2, what we want to make crystal clear to the FCC is that having funds available is critical for libraries, ensuring they can maintain and upgrade their Wi-Fi connectivity. How much are we talking about? In 2016, libraries requested more than $22 million for C2 through the E-rate program.

The deadline to submit comments is October 23, 2017, and we are calling on you to tell the FCC that libraries need secure funding for E-rate.

Here’s how to submit a comment:

  • Format your response as a PDF document. Don’t forget to use your library’s letterhead!
  • Go to https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings
  • For the Proceeding Number, enter the following proceeding numbers: 13-184
  • Complete the rest of the information on the form.
  • Upload your comments at the bottom of the form.

Not sure what to write? Use this template to tell the FCC how your patrons depend on the library to connect to the internet. We encourage you to edit the template to add specifics that are important to your library and your community. Does your library offer special programs that depend in Wi-Fi? Do you know a patron who comes in to use your Wi-Fi to look for jobs or have you seen a student doing homework on a tablet? These stories and examples are critical for the FCC to know about!

ALA will be submitting our own comments on October 23 based on input from our E-rate task force who advises the Washington Office on all things E-rate and feedback from the E-rate state coordinators. Your voices will amplify our message to the FCC and illustrate the difference E-rate can make in local communities. We expect further action in the coming weeks and will be calling on libraries to share their stories and step up their support of the E-rate program. There’s more to come.

Read more about ALA’s work on E-rate here.

About Marijke Visser

As associate director and senior policy advocate, Marijke leads and coordinates all of ALA’s work on E-rate. In addition, Marijke supports the Program on Networks focusing on broadband adoption issues for diverse populations. Marijke also serves as Program Director for OITP’s emerging portfolio on children, youth, and technology.

One comment

  1. As Director of Branches for the Pope County Library System, it is my job to oversee services. One of those services is to provide access to the online world via the internet. Our rural library system could not afford to provide access without the funds provided through E-Rate.

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