Most Massachusetts libraries do not apply for E-rate, though their automated network may.

See a summary of library or library consortial applications.

When does the E-rate program require compliance with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and what does that actually mean?

What Is E-rate?

E-rate helps public libraries and schools connect users to the internet, fast. E-rate is a federally-funded program offering 20-90% discounts on high-speed broadband, and the equipment and support services that make that connectivity work.


The transport circuits that connect your library to your automated network or your internet service provider, including: cable from Comcast, Verizon FIOS, DSL, satellite, fiber from the MassBroadband 123 or OpenCape networks.  E-rate considers these circuits to be separable from full-blown internet service.   

The cost of the data transmission alone does not trigger the need for CIPA compliance. It is only when combined with internet service that CIPA kicks in.

Connectivity to the web and all the services that you and your library customers use daily.  Internet service should not be confused with data transmission.  E-rate discounts for internet requires CIPA compliance.
Managed internal broadband services.  Your library can pay a 3rd party to manage robust wireless Internet service inside your buildings.

Routers, switches and other equipment necessary to deliver Internet to your users, and maintenance contracts on that equipment.

This is rare in Massachusetts!  And complicated. You can receive E-rate discounts for pulling a fiber connection to your building, lighting up unused fiber, or simply paying for the use of already lit fiber.

Please contact the state e-rate coordinator, Paul Kissman if you are contemplating a fiber project.

User equipment --computers, laptops and tablets-- are not eligible for discounts. For more detail, check the E-rate Eligible Services list.

Eligible Libraries

  • Public Library – You are eligible.
  • School Library - Your school or school district will apply for you.
  • Academic Library – In most cases, you are not eligible.
  • Special Library – You may be eligible if you are a member of the Massachusetts Library System and provide direct public service.

There are a few exceptions. Check the library eligibility slide from the Basic Concepts training video or contact us if you have questions.

Should You Apply?

Libraries users and staff need fast, reliable Internet access.

In 2014, the FCC adopted their first measurable internet bandwidth targets for libraries (WC Docket No. 13-184 Para 3):  

  • Libraries serving less than 50,000 people:  100Mbps
  • Libraries serving 50,000 people or more: 1Gbps

E-rate helps to make internet bandwidth affordable, but there are caveats.

E-Rate and CIPA: Do You Need to Filter?

For most E-Rate services, including Internet, you must comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act. This is a significant barrier for many public libraries. CIPA requires you to provide a technology protection measure, or filter, for all library computers. Discounts on Internet, equipment, managed Wi-Fi, and basic network maintenance all require CIPA compliance.

Learn More

E-rate Bureaucracy

The E-rate process is rigorous and can take time, though applicants get better and faster with experience. E-rate means multi-step applications and procurements, understanding what all the certifications mean, working with service providers to make the discount billing and reimbursents work, and good record keeping. If your expected discounts are not that significant, the overhead may not be worth it.

Read more about the application process. (Scroll down to the "How it Works" and "The Process" sections of the page.)

Where to Get Authoritative Answers

The E-rate program is complex. Though we can get you started, the best and most authoritative web site for information on the E-rate is the Schools and Libraries Division (SLD) of the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).


E-rate Questions & Help

Aleck Johnson, EdTech Strategies
(MBLC consultant)

State E-rate coordinator (libraries)

Kate Butler, Library Information Systems Specialist
617-725-1860 x253
857-488-6345 (Mobile)