From State Librarian Jennifer Nelson – an update for Regional Library Telecommunication Aid (RLTA)
The Governor’s supplemental budget includes a provision to modify Minnesota Statutes, section 134.355, Subd. 8-10, Regional Library Telecommunications Aid (RLTA). Established in 1998, RLTA provides state funds to offset the cost of internet access in public libraries that participate in the federal e-rate program. Responding to changes in e-rate and what libraries have told us about their needs, State Library Services has proposed several updates to the program this year.
Specifically, our proposal clarifies that all entities included in a regional library system’s RLTA application must file or be included in an e-rate application. It also ties payments to e-rate funding commitment decision letters. Our intent with this is to ensure that actual costs and e-rate discount rate are documented as the funding year starts. Responding to recent concerns about how RLTA is apportioned, we anticipate that payments will be pro-rated for each applicant based on their e-rate discount. In this way, we can be assured that 100 percent of the eligible expenditures for each applicant are covered between RLTA and e-rate.
The proposal also anticipates that Minnesota libraries will benefit from increased funding for e-rate Category Two services. It directly aligns eligible RLTA expenditures with e-rate non-voice Category One, which allows eligible expenditures to expand or contract as technology changes over time. Likewise, we propose expanding eligible RLTA expenditures to include e-rate Category Two services once Category One needs for a funding year have been met. While this does not guarantee that funds will be available each year, it does mean that if pricing for Category One services decreases, RLTA funds can be used for an array of expenses that contribute to robust access to the internet through public libraries, including internal connections and managed Wi-Fi.
These proposed changes ensure that all libraries are treated equitably and well-supported in their efforts to improve access to the internet, increase bandwidth and update equipment.
For more information, email Jen Nelson or call 651-582-8791.