The rate of connectivity in Indian Country lags behind the rest of the country. As of December 2018, only 60% percent of Tribal lands in the lower 48 states had high-speed Internet access. A new case study report [pdf] from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance delves into the experiences of four Native Nations — the Coeur d’Alene, the Nez Perce, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, and the St. Regis Mohawk — as they constructed their own Internet service providers.
The case studies examine the unique challenges Native Nations confront as they seek to build Internet infrastructure and address the digital divide while also retaining the tribal sovereignty that is essential to their identity and heritage. As the report states, “Native Nations are sovereign over their data, and have the obligation to protect that information and use it for the betterment of tribal citizens.”
Each section of the report contains key takeaways that other tribes could use and learn from. The report also pulls these individual case studies together for comprehensive key lessons that Native Nations, lending institutions, and the federal government can use to improve the process for implementing tribal ISP’s, which include:
- Improving Access to Capital. Native Nations do not have the same access to capital as municipalities or as private Internet service providers. Due to that fact, lending institutions should address their processes for lending to Native Nations to determine how to better support network projects, and the federal government should regularly evaluate funding opportunities for network projects by Native Nations.
- Avoiding Single-Purpose Funding. Federal funding is often limited to a single purpose, such as connecting Indian Health Services facilities or schools & libraries, which tends to create Internet “silos” rather than broad access.
- Recognizing the Preparation Needed to Take Advantage of Opportunities. Native Nations that have already started projects or have plans to start projects can easily jump on new funding opportunities if they have a core team of network professionals ready and waiting for the next funding opportunity.
- Respecting Native Nations’ Right to Spectrum. The FCC should not lease licenses to spectrum over any...