The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a new partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to expand broadband connectivity to Tribal libraries.
The announcement comes shortly after the FCC adopted an order updating the rules for its E-Rate program to clarify that Tribal libraries can access program funding. Late last month, the FCC released a new order that updated the definition of “library” in the E-Rate program rules to make clear that it includes Tribal libraries. The FCC said that move will resolve “a longstanding issue that limited their access to affordable broadband connectivity through the program.” The E-Rate program, established in 1996, is intended to help schools and libraries obtain affordable broadband service.
“The E-Rate program is a powerhouse that helps bring broadband to schools and libraries in every state across the country,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “But for Tribal libraries, it was often difficult to make use of this funding because of the way the rules were written. We’ve now put new rules in place that make it clear Tribal libraries are eligible to participate, and we are eager to get the word out. I’m excited to partner with IMLS so we can raise awareness in Tribal communities about this important funding opportunity.”
In a press release, the FCC said it will work with IMLS to raise awareness about the E-Rate program among Tribal libraries and organizations. The FCC said that to kick off the new partnership the agency recently reached out to all 574 Tribal leaders to provide information about the E-Rate program and opportunities for Tribal libraries to participate.
“The FCC’s update to the E-Rate eligibility for Tribal libraries is critical in supporting the technology needs of Tribal communities, especially during what has been one of the most challenging moments in modern history,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “IMLS, in partnership with the FCC, is proud to support initiatives and opportunities that empower Tribal communities and help expand their digital infrastructure.”