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Kilmer Applauds Funding to Expand Broadband to Tribal Land

June 4, 2021 by TWN Staff
Detail of artwork on display at the National Museum of the American Indian. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D- Wash., on Thursday cheered word that the Biden administration is allocating nearly $1 billion for grants to expand broadband access on tribal lands.

The anouncement of the funding was made by Vice President Kamala Harris, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The grants will be made available through the Commerce Department’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

The program, created by the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021, will provide funding to expand broadband on tribal lands – deploying broadband infrastructure, establishing affordable broadband programs, and supporting digital inclusion across Indian Country to lessen the digital divide. 

“For far too long, Native American tribes in our region and across the country have struggled to connect to high-speed, affordable, reliable broadband internet,” Kilmer said.

“Today’s announcement by the Biden administration of new federal investment in Indian Country is huge – and will help tribes compete for new economic opportunities, empower students to learn, and bridge the digital divide across the board,” he added.

“For generations, a lack of infrastructure investment in Indian Country has left tribes further behind in the digital divide than most areas of the country,” Haaland said.

“We have a responsibility as a country to build infrastructure that will fuel economic development, keep communities safe, and ensure everyone has opportunities to succeed. Today’s announcement marks a major stepping stone in the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to an all-of-government approach to ensure the federal government lives up to its responsibilities to tribal communities,” she added.

But Raimondo reminded reporters at the announcement that while “funding is an important step forward … we cannot stop here.”

“Access to broadband is as essential as electricity to our everyday life,” she said. Under President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, we will have the resources to deploy high-quality broadband infrastructure to every tribal community.”

“These investments will help many Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian communities gain long overdue access to life-saving technologies, economic opportunities, remote learning and countless other benefits,” Raimondo said.

The TBCP will focus on connecting tribal communities that have the greatest needs when it comes to basic broadband services.

Despite the increasing necessity of broadband access, more than 20% of people living on tribal lands still lack broadband service availability at home. Infrastructure grants are also intended to fuel job growth on tribal lands.

Tribal projects through the program are intended to be built and maintained by a tribal workforce and inspire culturally appropriate practices that promote the rich culture and traditions of each tribe.

More information about the program, including requirements for grant applications, can be found in the Notice of Funding Opportunity published today on grants.gov.

NTIA is also holding a series of webinars to further inform the public about the program. The next Tribal Broadband Connectivity webinars will be held on June 16 and 17.

Additional information can be found here.

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