Schrier Helps Tribes Secure First-Ever Licenses to Expand Internet Access

November 11, 2020 by Sean Trambley
Artwork on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. (Photo via its website)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., recently helped the Nisqually and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in her district fulfill a long time dream. They are two of eight tribes in the state to receive first-of-their-kind licenses for 2.5 GHz wireless broadband services. 

“Inadequate internet access is a decades-old problem that has only been exacerbated by this pandemic,” Schrier said in a written statement. “So many things we do on a day-to-day basis rely on internet access, like learning and working from home, telemedicine, and connecting with family members. 

“This important program will provide necessary tools like wireless internet to Tribal families and help bridge the digital divide. I hope the FCC continues to find opportunities to ensure even more Tribes in Washington and other communities around the country can access these essential services,” she added.

The licenses through the FCC provide for exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of 2.5 GHz band spectrum that can be used by Tribes to connect their communities. This is used through unassigned radio frequencies that require a license to use. During the first application process, the Commission received over 400 applications to obtain overlay licenses to help address Tribes’ connectivity needs.

Earlier this summer, Schrier held two meetings on broadband access. She convened state broadband and Tribal leaders for a discussion about this program and the overall need for more internet access in Washington state. 

Schrier also held a roundtable with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on rural broadband.

Rodney Cawston, chairman of the Colville Business Council, said the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has heightened the need for broadband access on reservations and other rural communities.

“Once our license is issued the Colville Tribes will have authority to bring broadband to our underserved communities,” Cawston said. “Without access to broadband our children do not have equal access to education and our members do not have opportunities for economic development, internet access to complete employment applications, census records, voting privileges, and communication opportunities that most of our nation take for granted.”

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