E-rate (Universal Service for Telecommunications Discounts Program) for Libraries

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Program Information

What is the E-rate (Universal Service) Program?

On May 7, 1997, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Universal Service Order implementing the Telecommunications Act of 1996.  The Order, commonly referred to as "E-rate" (Education Rate) ensures that all eligible schools and libraries have affordable access to modern telecommunications and information services.  Up to $2.25 billion annually was authorized initially to provide eligible schools and libraries with E-rate discounts. The amount actually allocated by Congress for FY 1998 was $1.9 billion, but the full $2.25 billion was authorized each year from FY 1999 to FY 2009. Beginning in FY 2010 the funding cap was indexed for inflation based on the Domestic Product chain-type price index that the FCC already uses for other purposes.  During times of zero inflation or deflation, the funding cap will remain the same as the previous year.  The First E-Rate Modernization Order (July 2014) set a target of $1 billion dollars to be used for internal connections, such as Wi-Fi.  The Second E-Rate Modernization Order (December 2014) increased the funding cap to $3.9 billion, indexed to inflation.

What agency administers the E-rate Program?

In January 1999, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) - which is the overall administrator of Universal Service Fund collection and distribution - merged with the Schools and Libraries Corporation (SLC) and the Rural Health Care Corporation (RHCC).  As a result of this merger, USAC created several divisions.  The Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) is responsible for administering the E-rate program for libraries and schools.

What types of libraries and library systems in New York State are eligible for discounts?

The following are eligible to apply for discounts:

  • public and association libraries (if they are members of a public library system);
  • not-for-profit special libraries (if they are members of a reference and research library resources system;
  • public library systems and reference and research library resources systems.

The following are also eligible for E-rate discounts as part of their school district, nonpublic school, BOCES, or Big 5 City Board of Education application:

  • public school library centers;
  • nonpublic school library centers;
  • school library systems.

What is the application process for eligible libraries and library systems in New York State?

Libraries and library systems submit their application for this program (Forms 470 and 471) directly to the Schools and Library Division (SLD).

What services are eligible for discounts?

Discounts can be applied to all commercially available telecommunications services, Internet connectivity, and internal connections. Beginning in 2015, support for voice services will be phased out. Support for broadband services and Category 2 services will be increased.

What is the level of discounts?

Discounts range from 20 percent to 90 percent, depending on economic need, location (urban or rural), and category of services.  The level of discounts for libraries is based on the percentage of student enrollment that is eligible for the National School Lunch Program or Community Eligibility Provision in the public school district in which the library is located.

USAC Eligible Services Overview external link

How many libraries and library systems in New York State received E-rate discounts for Program Years (PY) 1-21 (1998-2018)?

For each Program Year (1-19), an average total of 366 libraries and library systems in New York State received an average total of $10.81 million. The grand total received from the E-Rate Program for all years is over $216.2 million.

How can I obtain more information?

You can get further information by contacting your library system. For additional information, see the links below to both the SLD and E-Rate Central web sites. You can also contact Natalie McDonough , New York State Library, Division of Library Development at 518-486-2194.


New York State Library: Natalie McDonough, 518-486-2194
E-Rate Central: Winston Himsworth (516) 801-7801
Schools and Libraries Division: Submit a question

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Last Updated: February 20, 2020; for questions or comments contact Natalie McDonough