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Tribal Libraries web banner
Helping Tribal Libraries Connect
Through the E-Rate Program
Tribal Libraries Web Banner
Helping Tribal Libraries Connect
Close the Homework Gap

The FCC's E-Rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable by providing discounts to eligible schools and libraries, including Tribal libraries.

The E-Rate program is administered by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) under the direction of the FCC. USAC is responsible for processing the applications for support, confirming eligibility, and reimbursing service providers and eligible schools and libraries for discounted services.

Who is eligible for E-Rate funding?

Public or private schools (K-12), libraries, and groups of schools and libraries, such as consortia, districts, and systems, are eligible to apply for discounts on eligible services.

The FCC adopted a Report and Order in January 2022 that updates the E-Rate rules to include "Tribal library" in the definition of a "library," and clarifies that Tribal libraries are eligible for support through the E-Rate program. In July 2023, the FCC adopted another Report and Order that expanded eligibility to Tribal Colleges and University (TCU) libraries that act as a public library in their communities. A TCU library is eligible to apply for E-Rate support if it serves as a public library by having dedicated library staff, regular hours, and a collection available for public use in its community.

What constitutes a Tribal library eligible for E-Rate support?

Tribal government entities can designate a library as a Tribal library, such as through a Tribal Resolution.

Tribal libraries should also be able to demonstrate three basic characteristics of a library:

  • Regularly scheduled hours
  • Staff
  • Materials available for library users

Tribal libraries may also work with their state library administrative agency where they are located.

In July 2023, the Commission adopted an Order making Tribal colleges and universities eligible for E-Rate support when they act as the public library in their community. Tribal is now defined as, “An entity is “Tribal” for purposes of E-Rate funding if it is a school operated by or receiving funding from the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), or if it is a school or library operated by any Tribe, Band, Nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska native village, regional corporation, or village corporation (as defined in, or established pursuant to, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.)) that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”

Designating your library's status as a Tribal library

Tribal libraries should check the Tribal check box located in the entity’s EPC Profile. We are working to update the form to collect Tribal affiliation from Tribal schools and libraries.

Checking the box helps the FCC and USAC understand who is participating in the program and can help the FCC to better target E-Rate.

What services are eligible for E-Rate discounts?

There are two categories of service that are eligible for funding.

  • Category one provides connectivity to a school or library building, which includes telecommunications services and internet access (for example, the fiber or cable broadband connection to the library).
  • Category two provides internet access within schools or libraries, which includes internal connections, basic maintenance of internal connections, and managed internal broadband services, for example, the equipment needed within a library to provide Wi-Fi to patrons.

More information about eligible services, including the current list of services eligible for support, can be found on USAC's web page. Discounts on eligible services range from 20 to 90 percent, depending on the level of poverty and whether the school or library is located in an urban or rural area.

How much funding is available?

The E-Rate program funding is based on demand with an annual Commission-established cap of $4.768 billion for funding year 2023. In funding year 2023, schools and libraries requested $2.944 billion in E-Rate support.

How does the E-Rate program work?

The process starts with identifying the services you need and then submitting a request for competitive bids (FCC Form 470) for those services (and equipment) to USAC. USAC will then post these requests on its website for service providers to bid on.

After waiting at least 28 days and evaluating all of the bids received, you then select the most cost-effective eligible services and equipment using price as the primary factor.

After you sign a contract or establish a service agreement, you may then seek E-Rate support for the requested services and equipment by submitting an application (FCC Form 471) within the annual filing window.

After reviewing the applications, USAC will issue you a funding commitment decision letter (FCDL) and you can start to receive E-Rate support on the services and equipment USAC has approved.

Once services begin, applicants must confirm to USAC and report status by submitting an FCC Form 486. After FCC Form 486 has been processed by USAC, either the applicant or their service provider can begin the process of invoicing USAC for reimbursement of the discounted costs of the approved services and equipment.

All forms are submitted through the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC), which is the account and application management portal for the E-Rate program. E-Rate program participants use this tool to manage program processes, receive notifications, and contact customer service.


Applications for the E-Rate program are submitted and commitments are made by funding year (FY), which runs from July 1 through the following June 30.

The FCC Form 471 application forms must be filed during the specific filing windows, which are announced each year, typically between mid-January through mid-March, before the start of the funding year on July 1. For example, for funding year 2023, the application window opened on January 18, 2023 and closed on March 28, 2023, before the start of the funding year on July 1, 2023.

Need Help?

Learn more about the new Tribal libraries pilot program and how to apply.

USAC E-Rate Customer Service Center

  • Call (888) 203-8100
  • Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET

Frequently Asked Questions about Tribal Libraries and E-Rate.

USAC is the administrator of the four federal Universal Service Fund Programs, including the E-Rate Program, as well as the Affordable Connectivity Program, an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.

FCC Office of Native Affairs and Policy

The Office of Native Affairs and Policy (ONAP) assists the Commission in developing policies and programs to address the lack of adequate communications services on Tribal lands nationwide.

Contact ONAP: Email the ONAP Team or call 202-418-2930.

ONAP is also responsible for overseeing the work of the Native Nations Communications Task Force.

FCC News Media Contacts

Paloma Isabel Perez
FCC Press Secretary

Anne Veigle
Deputy Director, Office of Media Relations

Office of Media Relations