January 27, 2022

Tribal Libraries Now Have Access to Federal Funds for Affordable Internet Under FCC E-Rate Program
IMLS Applauds Move to Broaden Digital Inclusion Across Indian Country

Youth learn and play with technology.
In the Youth Game Lab at the library, youth have access to technology to learn and play at their pace. (Photo by Erik Stevens. Photo courtesy of Haines Borough Public Library).

Washington, DC—The Federal Communications Commission adopted an order today updating the definition of “library” in its E-Rate program rules to make it clear that Tribal libraries can access funding through the E-Rate program.

The order resolves a longstanding issue that limited Tribal library access to affordable broadband connectivity through the program. Tribal libraries are now eligible to apply within the current program application filing window, which opened on January 12, 2022 and closes on March 22, 2022.

The FCC’s E-Rate program makes telecommunications services available to libraries at much‑needed discounts. IMLS’s programs provide the library infrastructure that supports both access to broadband and the resources and services necessary for digital inclusion.

For more than two decades, IMLS has been helping build the capacity of Tribal libraries to serve their communities. Libraries have used IMLS funding to help assess connectivity needs, procure affordable broadband services, train staff, and obtain digital resources and technology. Libraries are very often the only public option for communities that lack the infrastructure and resources to serve areas of the U.S. where access is not affordable for a large portion of patrons.

IMLS Director Crosby Kemper applauded the FCC’s action today to ensure open, affordable, high-capacity broadband Internet connections. At the agency, Director Kemper has prioritized addressing the digital divide within Tribal and rural communities. He recently co-hosted the National Tribal Broadband Summit in collaboration with the Departments of Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, and Transportation, the FCC, and the White House Council for Native American Affairs.

Connecting Tribal libraries, schools, and local libraries to next generation broadband networks, fiber wherever feasible, is critical to enabling students and workers of all ages across the U.S. to develop the skills necessary to be competitive now and in the future. The investment in high-speed broadband and wireless connectivity helps meet the critical economic, public safety and emergency services, healthcare, and education needs of engaged citizens.

IMLS is committed to continuing to coordinate with the FCC to advance the capacity to achieve these goals. For more information, please visit the IMLS website.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.