Public Libraries: Recent Broadband Legislation and Funding

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The 2016 Idaho Legislature passed the Education Opportunity Resource (EOR) Act (SB 1334), which makes available state resources to support Idaho’s E-rate eligible entities—including public libraries. This support includes guidance on technical, E-rate, security, contracting, and procurement practices as well as the distribution of funds to reimburse E-rate applicant public libraries for the non-E-rate portion of their Internet services. The Legislature also appropriated $180,000 to the Idaho Commission for Libraries for the reimbursement in state fiscal year (FY) 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017).

Commission staff met with the State Department of Education IT staff to learn how they have received applications and distributed funds for Internet services to Idaho school districts this past year. Based on that discussion, we plan to use similar Google Forms for the application and reports so that the needed data will be automatically compiled.

We currently expect to distribute the initial application in July. In addition to asking if a public library plans to request state funds in FY2017 (July 2016 – June 2017), we will require information from the E-rate application including:
- FY2017 discount rate, provider(s)
- bandwidth in Mbps (Megabits per second)
- full monthly cost for eligible services
- one-time costs, if any

The EOR legislation requires the reporting of utilization statistics from participating schools and libraries for planning and budgeting at both the local and state levels. The specific data elements to be reported haven’t yet been defined, but we will let public libraries know what they are as soon as they are determined.

This past year, the Department of Education made payments to school districts on a quarterly basis. The first payments were made in August using estimates based on district 471 E-rate applications, and subsequent payments were adjusted based on actual invoices. We hope to offer a similar payment schedule to public libraries, but are still working on that process.

More information will come, but for questions about reimbursement of the non-E-rate portion of public libraries’ Internet service provider charges, please feel free to contact State Librarian Ann Joslin at ann.joslin@libraries.idaho.gov or 334-2150 x134.