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A Student-Centered E-Rate Program: Focus on Libraries

Commissioner Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission has proposed to modernize

the E-Rate program to meet the needs of the digital age. For libraries, his plan focuses on five key

goals:

1. Simplify the Program

Libraries need to fill out only two forms: an initial application and a report back on how the

money was spent

Initial application can be no more than one page

Universal Service Fund administrator does all the calculations, reducing the burden on libraries

Less red tape means fewer delays, more predictability, and no need to hire consultants

2. Fairer Distribution of Funding

Reserves about 10 percent of E-Rate funding for libraries

Gives every library in America an E-Rate budget; every librarian knows how much funding is

available on day one

Libraries receive money based on objective metrics

Additional funds allocated for libraries in rural and/or low-income areas as well as small libraries

to account for higher costs and different needs

3. Focus on Next-Generation Technologies for Library Patrons

Patrons come first; eliminates disincentive to spend money on Wi-Fi

No more funding for stand-alone telephone service

Equal funding for all eligible services; local libraries (not Washington) set priorities

4. More Transparency and Accountability

Creates website where anyone can find out exactly how any library is spending E-Rate funds;

enables patrons, city councils, press, and public to conduct effective oversight

Head librarian must certify that E-Rate funds were used to help patrons

5. Fiscal Responsibility

Ends the “more you spend, more you get” phenomenon: Libraries given fixed amount of money

and must contribute at least one dollar for every three E-Rate dollars they receive

Better incentives, reduced waste, and less red tape allows program to accomplish much more

with the same amount of money; over $1 billion more in first year provided for next-generation

technology

Caps overall USF budget before any increase in E-Rate budget; any expansion in E-Rate must be

accompanied by corresponding cuts elsewhere in USF

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