Tag: "tribal lands"

Posted January 14, 2017 by htrostle

In December 2016, the Congressional Research Service office released two reports on federal funding programs to improve high-speed Internet access. One report focuses on Tribal lands, and the other report provides an overview of the digital divide in general.

Dollars for the Digital Divide

Researchers Lennard G. Kruger and Angele A. Gilroy collaborated on Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs. Kruger is a specialist in Science and Technology Policy and Gilroy is a specialist in Telecommunications Policy. The report provides an overview of ongoing efforts, including recently enacted legislation.

Kruger and Gilroy define the digital divide as between those who have access and those who do not. In particular, they focus on the dynamic between urban and rural areas, especially with regard to different income levels. The researchers consolidate previously released information on the digital divide and provide an analysis of current programs, including grants through the Appalachian Regional Commission. The researchers conclude by detailing all recent legislation. Check out the report for more information.

Status of Tribal Broadband

Kruger also wrote Tribal Broadband: Status of Deployment and Federal Funding Programs. This report follows up the Government Accountability Office’s 2016 report, Additional Coordination and Performance Measurement Needed for High-Speed Internet Access Programs on Tribal Lands

Drawing on information from both the GAO’s report and the FCC 2016 Broadband Progress Report, Kruger relays key facts about Internet access and federal funding. In particular, Kruger notes in the report that there is no dedicated federal funding earmarked to improving Internet access on Tribal lands:

Tribal entities and projects are eligible for virtually all federal broadband programs. With a few exceptions, however, there are no carve-outs or dedicated funding streams specifically for tribal applicants or non-tribal...

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Posted January 9, 2017 by htrostle

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a draft of the #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan and is seeking comments. The plan points to policies to make the communications sector work for everyone.

The #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan is available here on the FCC website. Public comments are due by January 11, 2017.

What’s In It

The current draft provides policy recommendations that cover almost the entire scope of the communications sector. Here are a few highlights to give you a hint of what’s inside:

  • Reforming Inmate Calling Services by establishing reasonable rates
  • Improving gender and racial diversity in the tech and broadcasting industries 
  • Affirming local control and the role of community networks
  • Supporting the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs

Each goal is further broken down into specific policy recommendations. Although touching on many subjects, the plan is only 11 pages long. 

Proposals From the Policy Forum

This draft came out of Commissioner Clyburn’s #ConnectingCommunities tour and subsequent #Solutions2020 Policy Forum. Throughout the tour and at the policy forum, local leaders and stakeholders were able to speak directly about their needs in the community and their ideas for potential solutions. This #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan gathers all of these ideas into one document to guide policymakers moving forward.

The public comment deadline for the #Solutions2020 Call to Action Plan is January 11, 2017. Submit comments to solutions2020@fcc.gov. See the draft release for more details.

Posted November 18, 2016 by htrostle

Native American communities throughout the United States have rather bleak figures when it comes to Internet access. That’s about to change.

In Minnesota, Red Lake Nation now has access to some of the fastest Internet service in the entire country. The telephone cooperative Paul Bunyan Communications has extended its GigaZone, offering a Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) per second Internet service, to the tribal nation. 

Future Focused

In Red Lake Nation News, Tribal Chairman Darrell Seki, Sr., described the benefits of this new high-speed Internet access: 

“Having access to fiber Internet services is vital to our rural economy and impacts so many aspects of life. To start a new business, find a good job, or get a high quality education you need a quality high-speed Internet connection. The GigaZone is on the cutting edge of technology and enhances the Red Lake Nation's unique assets, including a large workforce and the Red Lake Nation College, for economic development and business expansion. We're excited about the positive impact this will have on our Tribe now and well into the future."

The Gigabit service will be available in the communities of Red Lake, Redby, Little Rock and Ponemah. The Red Lake Nation is home to about 13,000 Ojibwe members, and is the only “closed reservation” (meaning that the land is held in common) in Minnesota. The nation is a model of self-reliance: they just announced the launch of an all-solar electricity project.

seal-red-lake-nation.png

The high-speed Internet service is provided by Paul Bunyan Communications based out of Bemidji, Minnesota, which is about 45 minutes south of Red Lake. The telephone cooperative has built out one of the largest Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks in the United States. Read more of our coverage of Paul Bunyan Communications; we expect to see even more from...

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Posted November 1, 2016 by htrostle

Rural electric cooperatives are providing next-generation connectivity. In Oregon a consortium of electric cooperatives called LS Networks built a middle mile network a few years ago and now are taking the next step with last mile connectivity.

LS Networks’ Connected Communities program hopes to bring last mile fiber connectivity to 25 communities in rural Oregon and Washington. Internet access will officially be available in early 2017 in some communities. Depending on the needs of each community, the solution could be Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH), or fixed wireless using the fiber-optic network for backhaul.

Connected Communities

The project started in July, but LS Networks only now made the official announcement. The Connected Communities program asks folks to nominate their community to be connected by filling out a short form. LS Networks will offer two types of monthly plans [pdf]: 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $40 and a Gigabit (1,000 Megabits) for $70. Customers will also be able to purchase voice service for an additional $15 per line and 50 cents per phone number.

Currently, the small, northern Oregon town of Maupin is the only official Connected Community. LS Networks is already at work building out a fiber connection to nearly all of the 400+ homes and businesses in the community. On November 9th, Maupin residents can take part in a town hall meeting at the South Wasco County High School to learn more about LS Networks’ plans and the Connected Communities program.

Consortium of Cooperatives

LS Networks should be well prepared to handle such a large-scale fiber network project. The consortium of electric cooperatives and the Coquille Tribe came together around 2005 to provide middle mile connectivity. At first, the consortium focused on their region of northern Oregon, but LS Networks’ footprint quickly grew to 7,500 route miles of fiber. The network spread throughout the Pacific Northwest, covering rural regions of Washington...

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Posted May 25, 2016 by rebecca

Tribal governments face unique problems when connecting their communities, but the need is great. 

In this episode of Community Connections, Christopher Mitchell speaks with Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association (SCTCA) and Director of the Tribal Digital Village (TDV) Initiative. Mitchell and Rantanen talk about the special challenges of deploying fiber on tribal lands.

 

Posted March 17, 2016 by htrostle

As of now, 41% of tribal lands do not have high-speed Internet access according to the FCC Broadband Report of 2016 released on January 29, 2016. That same day, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a study of high-speed Internet access on tribal lands. 

The GAO report (GAO-16-222) reviewed previous federal programs that aimed to improve Internet access and interviewed several tribal entities. The result reveals the perspective of communities impacted by the data and cooperation - or lack of both - among the different federal entities. Long before this report, the FCC had recognized the shortcomings of these programs and began to improve data collection and inter-governmental cooperation.

Highlighted Areas for Improvement

The GAO focused mainly on FCC and USDA programs from 2010 – 2014, especially those that specifically addressed tribal connectivity. GAO researchers collected the perspectives of several tribal entities, which provided useful qualitative data to understand the impact of Internet access on these communities.

Tribal officials noted that the important role the FCC and USDA programs had in expanding high-speed Internet access. Throughout the report are anecdotes of how the several programs have benefitted tribal lands. The outreach efforts of the two federal agencies, however, are not always well coordinated:

“Officials from one tribe said that multiple federal programs offering similar grants were confusing and that a federal one-stop-shop for outreach and training would help them better target the right programs for their situation.“ (p. 22)

The report also touched on the quality of quantitative data. In 2006, there was little meaningful data. Although the situation has improved, reliable data is still lacking. Tribal lands are often rural and sparsely populated, such that census blocks (the basis of much data collection) cover large areas. This method can grossly overstate the availability of Internet access in such an environment.

GAO Recommendations and FCC Action

“GAO recommends that FCC (1) develop joint training and outreach with USDA; (2) develop...

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