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Every year we provide virtual training to help you navigate the E-Rate process.

Emergency Connectivity Fund update

The Federal Communications Commission will open a third application window for eligible schools and libraries to request Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) funds for eligible equipment, including circulating tablets, laptops and hotspots.  

This support is intended to help these institutions purchase equipment and connectivity to meet your patrons’ needs for remote, off-site connectivity.  

Review the webinar recording (54:22) where we discuss the July 1, 2022 - December 31, 2023 funding cycle and best practices to follow as you prepare an application.

EBB webinar recording

If you are interested in the Emergency Broadband Benefit for library patrons and consumers, please review Explaining the Emergency Broadband Benefit to Library Patrons (31:09)

The Bureau of Library Development’s E-Rate Consultant tracks E-Rate Funding Commitments to Florida’s libraries. 

E-Rate program

1. What is E-Rate?

E-Rate is a fund set up by the federal government to help schools and public libraries pay their internet connectivity fees. Florida’s public libraries receive about $4 million annually to pay for everything from the internet bill, to WiFi routers, to software to support the infrastructure of a library’s internal connections.

2. How is it paid for?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) collects money from telecom companies. This process was established in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (PDF), which called for universal service, or for everyone to have the same access to connectivity rates, regardless of their location.

3. Who manages the fund?

E-Rate is managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), a nonprofit corporation based out of Washington, DC. USAC administers all applications and requests for funding, makes judgement decisions and disperses funds.

4. How much money is available for my library via E-Rate?

The exact figure varies from library to library.

Category one

For internet connectivity to your building, Category One reimbursement depends on the:

  • Poverty rate in your area.
  • Urban/rural status of your school district.

Discounts range from 20-90 percent of the costs of eligible services.

Category two

For FY2021, USAC has announced a change in calculations for Category Two funds, which are used to fund your facility’s internal connections and infrastructure.

All libraries, regardless of urban or rural status, now receive Category Two funds totaling $4.50 per square foot.

They have also increased the minimum amount a library system qualifies for; the funding floor is now set at $25,000 per system.

Using the funds

5. What can I use this money for?

USAC puts out a list of updated eligible services (PDF) every year. Broadly speaking, there are two main areas of funding; Category One and Category Two services.

Category One funding covers data transmission and internet access from service providers to the buildings themselves. This can even cover the costs of network construction to get that last mile of coverage from an existing area to new or upgraded buildings.

Category Two funds are used to cover services inside of buildings: switches, racks, routers, etc. They can also be used to cover the repair and upkeep of these internal connections, and basic technical support for them as well.

6. I run a small lending library in my church/club/neighborhood. Does that mean I can get money for internet bills?

Not exactly. USAC requires that all applicants meet the definition of a school or library. Here in Florida, we define public libraries according to the Library Services and Technology Act, which states that, among other requirements, a library must:

  • Be headed by a librarian who has completed a library education program accredited by the American Library Association.
  • Have an organized collection of information resources.
  • Have paid staff.
  • Have separate quarters.
  • Be open to the public during regularly-scheduled hours.

If you’re interested in applying as a school, you can contact the Department of Management Services E-Rate Team by visiting their website.

7. Is there a complete list of how libraries qualify for this program?

Absolutely – please see our E-Rate Eligibility document (PDF) for the current federal and state guidelines about the definition of a library or library branch in the state of Florida.

ALA and internet filtering

8. Does the American Library Association support E-Rate?

According to their E-Rate policy position documents, “ALA supports policies that maintain robust and stable funding levels for the E-Rate program, a significant source of support for library technology needs.”

In fact, ALA has increasingly become one of the biggest advocates (PDF) for E-Rate with the United States legislature. ALA advocates expanding E-Rate support in rural areas and tribal lands, as well as recognizing the role that robust broadband plays in encouraging innovation and mitigating natural disasters.

9. Doesn’t E-Rate require censorship?

It is true that USAC requires that applicants be in compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

CIPA compliance requires libraries to have in place an internet safety policy that addresses:

  • Safety and security of minors using electronic communications.
  • The ability of minors to access inappropriate materials online.

Libraries must:

  • Have a technology protection measure in place that blocks or filters internet access.
  • Hold a publicly-noticed hearing or meeting to discuss this measure.
10. Can you recommend a filter for my library?

We cannot recommend any one product or program over another. However we do conduct a semi-annual survey of internet policies and filtering in Florida’s libraries (PDF).

If you see a filter on the list that sparks your curiosity, feel free to reach out to the library who uses it to ask them about their experiences with that product.

Need our help?

11. I’m interested in E-Rate, but I’m not sure if my library will qualify, or if it’s right for my community. Can you advise me on that?

Absolutely! If you reach out to 850.245.6603, we can talk about the program in more detail and help you determine whether or not your library can apply.

Hurricane Ian

12. How has Hurricane Ian affected E-Rate in disaster areas?

Extended deadlines

According to DA-22-1063 (PDF) released by the FCC, all E-Rate participants located in counties designated as Affected Disaster Areas by FEMA (DR-4673-FL) are granted an extension of 150 calendar days for the following deadlines:

Service Delivery Deadlines originally scheduled for September 30, 2022 are extended to September 30, 2023.

Special construction deadlines of June 30, 2023 will be extended to June 30, 2024.

Loss of documents

While the program requires documentation retention for applicants and providers to be 10 years from last date of service, those entities in the affected areas will not be penalized for loss of documents due to hurricane impacts.

Damaged or destroyed equipment

Approved entities may apply for service substitutions, so that E-Rate funds can be used to replace damaged or destroyed equipment. Applicants must certify that the equipment substituted will have the same functionality and does not result in an increase of the original request for bids (Form 470). Entities are still expected to follow state or local procurement procedures wherever applicable. In keeping with program rules on open and competitive bidding, if a service provider switch is necessary, applicants are instructed to refer to their original bid evaluation matrix to select a new vendor.

Emergency Connectivity Fund

For the Emergency Connectivity Fund, the following extensions are in place:

  • Deadlines for requests for waivers and for responses to Program Integrity Assurance review are extended by 150 days.
  • Applicants and service providers will not be penalized for records lost to hurricane impacts.
  • Service substitutions will be granted, with the same expectation of certifications as the E-Rate program.

Affordable Connectivity Program

For the Affordable Connectivity Program, service providers are instructed to suspend household de-enrollments through November 30, 2022, in order to ensure that vulnerable households are not cut off from essential connectivity during the period of recovery. Service providers will have until January 26, 2023 (60 days) to recertify participating households for enrollment in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Future announcements

As the impacts of Hurricane Ian are still being measured, the FCC or USAC may make public additional emergency orders. Please continue to watch the USAC Announcements page for further developments.

Additional helpful links

For FY2023-24, the percentage of total costs for the E-Rate program financed with federal money is 67%; the federal dollar amount to be spent on the programs is $43,637. This program does not include any non-governmental funding.

imls180.for.panel.jpgMany of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida's LSTA program is administered by the Department of State's Division of Library and Information Services.