Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) webinar recording
The Emergency Connectivity Fund, established by Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), is intended to help support schools and libraries that are providing devices and internet connectivity to their constituents for remote learning.
EBB webinar recording
The Bureau of Library Development’s E-Rate Consultant tracks E-Rate Funding Commitments to Florida’s libraries.
Every year we provide virtual training to help you navigate the E-Rate process.
- E-Rate for Funding Year 2021 (52:31)
- E-Rate for Funding Year 2020 (31:16)
- E-Rate for Funding Year 2019 (33:40)
- E-Rate for Funding Year 2018 (37:29)
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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 keep hearing about E-Rate, but I always seem to miss out on the deadlines. Can you help me with that?
We definitely can. If you sign up for our E-Rate Update mailing list, you’ll get helpful reminders about upcoming program dates and deadlines sent right to your inbox.
- 12. 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 Equal Access to All Consultant Emily Hart at 850.245.6633, we can talk about the program in more detail and help you determine whether or not your library can apply.