$77M in Funding Will Help Bring Broadband to Tribal Lands
WASHINGTON — Native American tribes across the country are set to receive $77 million in funding to help build new broadband networks and strengthen existing ones, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
This round of funding will go to 19 tribes in 10 states including Native Alaskans, bringing the total funding to $83 million for 34 projects to date. It’s part of the nearly $3 billion going to tribal lands as part of the $68 billion that will be used to build out broadband infrastructure around the country as part of the program that intends to connect every American to the internet.
“For far too long, tribal communities have been cut off from the benefits of high-speed internet, as well as the associated economic benefits that come with it,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo in a statement.
“From running a business to taking online classes to scheduling a doctor’s appointment, the internet is a necessary tool for participating in our modern economy, and it’s an absolute injustice that this resource has been deprived from so many Native Americans across our country.”
Broadband expansion has been a key part of multiple pandemic-related aid bills as the internet has become essential to everyday life.
In 2021, $980 million was allocated to Native American, Alaskan and Hawaiian tribes through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
An additional $2 billion was infused into that program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
In this round of funding the Alaska Federation of Natives is the largest recipient of funds, receiving $35 million to help a consortium of 73 Alaska Native Tribal governments, Alaska Native Corporations and tribal organizations. Members of the consortium will provide people with broadband-enabled devices, subsidize broadband service and implement digital skills and workforce training, according to the NTIA.
The funding will help the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority in South Dakota connect residents to the internet. About 90% of the reservation’s 2.8 million acres is equipped to be connected to broadband, however, only about 42% of residents are connected due to high connection costs, according to the NTIA.
The $7.2 million being provided to the Delaware Nation in Oklahoma will be used to build up community spaces for residents while also providing equipment and service to people’s homes.
Much of the funding will go towards digital literacy programs to help ensure people connected to the internet are able to utilize it for work, school and health care.
“This critical funding will bring affordable, high-speed internet service to tribes from Alaska to Rhode Island, and many places in between, expanding access to telehealth, distance learning, and workforce development,” Raimondo said.
“Today’s awards reaffirm the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to ensuring that tribal communities, and unserved and underserved communities in every state and territory, have the resources they need and deserve to thrive in our increasingly digital economy.”
Madeline can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @ByMaddieHughes