This past Friday, I was in Chicago for the American Library Association’s annual conference, where I spoke about pushing back against book bans and proposed to modernize the FCC’s E-Rate program.
Schools and libraries are increasingly acquiring and loaning out Wi-Fi hotspots to connect people on the wrong side of the digital divide, so, as part of our Learn Without Limits initiative, we’ve proposed making these hotspot loan programs an eligible use of E-Rate support. Just as we are launching this new effort to update E-Rate to better meet the connectivity needs of today and the future, the Commission’s July Open Meeting will feature an opportunity to get a previous E-Rate reform over the finish line. Here are all the items we’ve lined up for our July agenda.
- We’re enhancing support for connectivity in Tribal communities. Libraries are a vital source of internet access across Indian country. Building on earlier reforms to make it easier for Tribal libraries to take advantage of the E-Rate program, the Commission will vote to make it easier for Tribal college and university libraries to apply for E-Rate support, in addition to streamlining the program and easing administrative burdens. The Commission will also vote to seek further comment on ways to simplify the application process for all E-Rate applicants.
- We’re improving the reliability of our Nation’s life-saving counseling network. In the year since its establishment in July 2022, the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has proven to be a game changer for crisis counseling in America. Compared to a year earlier, the calls answered by the Lifeline in May 2023 were up 45%, chats answered increased by 52%, and answered texts went up a remarkable 938%. The Commission will vote on rules to establish reporting and notice requirements for 988 call outages. Similar outage reporting rules for 911 have helped us to identify vulnerabilities and to improve the reliability of that system.
- We’re preserving established local programming for radio audiences. For years, some low-power television stations licensed on Channel 6 have provided listeners local radio programming that was picked up on the FM dial. The Commission will vote to allow these so-called FM6 stations to continue providing their existing analog radio service by authorizing them as “ancillary or supplementary services.”
- We will also consider an action from our Enforcement Bureau.