Tribal Libraries Pilot Program
On July 20, 2023, the FCC adopted a Report and Order amending program rules to enhance Tribal applicants’ access to the E-Rate program. FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel also announced the extension of the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program for Funding Year (FY) 2024.
To help Tribal libraries and Tribal college and university (TCU) libraries that also serve as public libraries in their communities participate in the E-Rate program, the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program provides one-on-one assistance in preparing, applying, and receiving E-Rate support. This includes sharing information about program rules and requirements, providing training on how to use the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC), and walking through the competitive bidding and application processes. The program also supports participants during the invoicing and other post-commitment processes, including the service confirmation and Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) certification or service substitution requests.
The goal of the Pilot Program is to learn what training and support is most useful to new Tribal library applicants to enhance E-Rate training materials and simplify the application process. The Tribal Libraries Pilot Program seeks to gain an understanding of the applicant experience to increase participation and streamline the E-Rate program requirements, particularly for Tribal applicants.
The Tribal Libraries Pilot Program was created for Tribal libraries that are new to the E-Rate program or had challenges applying to the E-Rate program in the past and were unsuccessful. Tribal libraries must be able to demonstrate that they have three basic characteristics of a library, including:
- Regularly scheduled hours;
- Staff; and
- Materials for library users.
Tribal government entities can designate a library as a Tribal library (for example, through a Tribal Resolution). Tribal libraries may also work with the state library administrative agency where they are located.
In FY2024 (which begins July 1, 2024), TCU libraries will be eligible for E-Rate funding as long as they also serve as a public library for their community and meet the characteristics of a library outlined above.
Apply for the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program
USAC and the FCC are now accepting applications to participate in the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program.
To apply for the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program, libraries must complete a brief questionnaire detailing information about your library, your IT needs, and your readiness to participate in the E-Rate program.
Please note that participating in the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program will provide your library with training and support to apply for E-Rate funding. Your library will still have to complete the E-Rate application process.
Based on last year’s Pilot Program, libraries that were most successful in applying for E-Rate funding had support and participation from Tribal leadership, library leadership, and IT leadership. We encourage interested libraries to engage those groups when applying for the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program.
Tribal Library Support Pilot Program Expectations
Tribal libraries that are selected to participate in the FY2024 Tribal Libraries Pilot Program will be notified this fall.
Each library will be paired with an E-Rate Tribal Library Advocate (TLA) who will provide one-on-one support throughout the E-Rate application process. USAC will also provide group training sessions for participants in the E-Rate Tribal Libraries Pilot Program.
In addition to the targeted training and support, USAC will host a series of virtual E-Rate program trainings in October and November that covers the program basics and processes. Anyone interested in applying for E-Rate funding is encouraged to attend these trainings.
Each participating library will work with their TLA to complete the E-Rate program cycle. The TLA will provide hands-on support through the competitive bidding and application processes, as well as the invoicing and disbursement processes.
Participants are expected to provide feedback about the E-Rate application and post-commitment processes, so that we can continue to simplify and enhance the training and program experience for Tribal library applicants.
Overview of the E-Rate Application Process
In the Tribal Libraries Pilot Program, E-Rate program staff will support participating libraries through the full application cycle.
For most applicants, this process includes:
- Determining the library’s IT needs and identifying E-Rate eligible services
- Conducting competitive bidding
- Completing the E-Rate application process
For participating libraries that are approved for funding, program staff will then provide support through:
- Starting services
- Invoicing for E-Rate approved services and equipment
- Post-commitment processes, such as service and equipment substitution (if needed)
- Tuesday, October 3, 2023, at 4 p.m. ET — USAC will host a repeat info session on E-Rate Tribal Order Updates and the Tribal Libraries Pilot program updates – Register.
- Tuesday, October 10, 2023, at 4 p.m. ET — USAC will host the October Tribal Teleconference Q&A Session focusing on the E-Rate Tribal Order updates – Register.
If you have questions about the E-Rate Tribal Libraries Pilot Program or the E-Rate program, please contact Gem Labarta, USAC’s Tribal Liaison, at TribalTraining@usac.org.