New funding to provide internet and tech for Tribal libraries, schools

Camryn Smith

Aug 18, 2023 — 2 min read

New FCC order aimed at narrowing digital divide.

girl at library with computer

Tribal communities have historically lacked access to and funding for reliable broadband internet connections. While there are low-income internet options and federal programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) available, initiatives aimed at directly helping Tribal communities are crucial to closing the digital divide.

In July 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted an order providing Tribal communities and other E-Rate program participants greater access to high-speed broadband funding and equipment. 

The E-Rate program began in 1996 with the goal of providing funds to libraries and schools for basic internet connections. The FCC has enhanced the program over the years to also install Wi-Fi throughout the buildings, and in 2022, amended the program to include Tribal libraries as eligible program participants. 

This new order will grant E-Rate eligibility to Tribal College and University libraries that also serve as public libraries within their Tribal communities. 

The maximum category two discount rate will also increase to 90% and the category funding floor will increase to $55,000 for Tribal libraries. Category two services are the internet connections needed for broadband connectivity within schools. This change will raise the amount of funding for these services that are reimbursable through the program. 

Other updates to the E-Rate program include: 

  • Steps to simplify the application process
  • Guidance for cost allocation issues
  • Increased outreach and training for Tribal applicants
  • Adding a Tribal community representative to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) Board of Directors 

Other Tribal internet funding comes through the federal government’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This is a $3 billion program that awards grants to qualifying Tribal entities. So far, over $1.7 has been awarded in grants. 

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Camryn Smith

Written by:

Camryn Smith

Cammy is a writer with Allconnect, growing her broadband industry knowledge for over a year on the internet marketplace. Her expertise lies in home internet and broadband service with a focus on providers, plans… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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