Tag: "tribal"

Posted November 20, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

This past August, the Open Technology Institute (OTI) (a program of New America) released its 2020 Cost of Connectivity Report, which showed that a combination of regulatory and oversight choices combined with market forces results in Internet access that for most Americans is slower, less reliable, and more expensive than elsewhere in the world. 

In October, the OTI followed up that report with one focused on the Navajo Nation. It argues that “altogether, the federal government’s failure to connect people on tribal lands deprives entire tribes of opportunities for employment, healthcare, education, and economic growth in both the short and long-term.”

The Navajo Nation is divided into 109 political subdivisions (called chapters) by geography across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The OTI report finds that just four of those chapters have access speeds which meet the FCC’s standard for basic broadband (25/3Mbps (Megabits per second)), and that many in the community remain stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide. 

More Findings

Claire Park, author of the study, pulled data from the Navajo Nation Woven Integrated Data Project and combined it with FCC data and state broadband maps from March to July 2020, cross checking a sample of addresses with existing residential Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in those areas. It uses a total of 450 offered plans in its data set.

The report succinctly argues that broadband remains just one among the litany of struggles that those living on tribal lands face:

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic exposes the deeply unjust policies behind stark inequities in certain communities. In the case of tribal nations, the federal government’s lack of support during the pandemic is another chapter in a brutal history of injustice that leaves tribes particularly vulnerable to this disease. Generations of federal policies undermining Indigenous wealth, power, and sovereignty have left many Native people without access to basic infrastructure, including food, running water, safe and adequate housing, telecommunications service, and healthcare.

In this context it offers some startling...

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Posted October 6, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

A new report out by the American Library Association shows how community anchor institutions — and libraries in particular — can serve as central players in expanding tribal connectivity efforts around the country. “Built by E-rate: A Case Study of Two Tribally-Owned Fiber Networks and the Role of Libraries in Making It Happen" [pdf] looks at the striking success of tribal efforts in New Mexico in putting together a coalition of actors to dramatically improve Internet access in the region.

The report examines networks built by two consortiums situated in the middle of the state in the summer of 2018: the Middle Rio Grande Pueblo Tribal Consortium and The Jemez and Zia Pueblo Tribal Consortium. An endeavor initially spearheaded by the Santa Fe Indian School (which long ago recognized the need for virtual learning, the value of fast, affordable Internet and the ongoing cost of slow, poor, high monthly costs), “Built by E-Rate” details how they came into being and the obstacles they faced along the way, and offers policy recommendations moving forward.

Faster Speeds, Lower Costs

Each project cost $4.2 million, with E-Rate funding covering 95% of the costs after each managed to secure state funding via general obligation bonds for their effort. They both consist of 30 miles of tribe-owned, 12-strand fiber and an additional 30 miles of two-strand dark fiber leased from Zayo, a privately owned fiber infrastructure outfit. Both terminate in the Albuquerque GigaPoP operated by the University of New Mexico — a nonprofit initiative to get affordable, high-speed broadband to educational and research institutions in the state. On average, the consortia increased Internet speeds from 3 EMgabits per second (Mbps)_ to 100Mbps while decreasing costs from $106/Mbps to $3/Mbps as a result of the new network. Both are well-positioned for scalability and future growth...

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Posted August 14, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Tribal residents and others living along near Six Rivers National Forest in Humboldt County, California are about to get a broadband boost. The Yurok and Karuk Tribes announced at the end of July that the Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative received more than $10 million from the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC's) California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) to add over a 100 miles of additional fiber to the project’s community network, connecting hundreds of additional homes, businesses, and anchor institutions. The award marks the second injection of funding from the CPUC’s grant program to the initiative. 

Over the River and Through the Woods

Humboldt County covers more than 4,000 square miles along the coast in the northwest part of the state, about 60 miles west of Redding. It’s one of the least-densely populated areas in the state, marked by rural, mountainous, rugged terrain for the roughly 150,000 people who live there. Those in the northern fifth of the county have it particularly hard; the region is bounded by national forests on either side, with the Klamath River running down the middle. As recently as 2009, telephone service in the region was unreliable, and Internet access was restricted to dial-up or satellite. The Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative (KRRBI) has been working since 2013 to address this digital divide.

The new CPUC award totals a little more than $10.8 million to add 104 miles of new fiber to their middle-mile network. Last-mile connections come via fixed wireless, a cost-effective way to bring broadband to rural areas. The new route will connect the communities of Orleans to Orick and Weitchpec to Wautec and Johnsons, bringing new service to 616 households, 8 first responder agencies, and 14 additional anchor institutions like schools, tribal offices, and health care clinics. The project will also add three redundant links to the existing network across the 80-square mile area.

“For the residents of far Northern California, this initiative will...

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Posted August 10, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

The United States Office of the Comptroller is hosting a webinar at the end of the month called “Banks Finance Broadband in Rural Areas & Indian Country” aimed at banks and local leaders looking to form partnerships to fund broadband projects for rural and tribal communities across the country. 

In addition to providing basic information on how community financial institutions can work with local governments, participants in a 2017 partnership which brought broadband to Fort Berthold Indian Reservation will be present to discuss their experience and answer questions.

Register for the event by clicking here.

New Rule, New Financing Options

Tribal communities face a host of ongoing connectivity obstacles, all of which have been exacerbated by the current public health crisis. Native student populations are much more likely to be affected by the homework gap, a problem that will remain as states and school districts struggle to put together a cohesive connectivity plan for the upcoming school year.

The program is one of the many that together come from the OCC's participation in the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), passed in 1977. The CRA directs federal financial regulators (including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) to push FDIC-insured financial institutions to meet the credit needs of the communities they’re a part of, with emphasis on low- and moderate-income regions.

A new rule allows banks to consider broadband an essential infrastructure for financing projects, giving rural stakeholders wider access to capital for those kinds of ventures under consideration. It was adopted by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, of which the OCC is a member agency, in July of 2016 [pdf]. The Council now cites Internet...

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Posted July 28, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Yesterday, Congresswoman Deb Haaland and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the DIGITAL Reservations Act, a bill which ends the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) practice of selling wireless spectrum rights on the lands of Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations and grants ownership, management, and governance of all spectrum to those groups in perpetuity. The bill also calls for the creation of an FCC fund to support broadband efforts, an advisory team to provide regulatory and technical assistance, and a data collection program to support future connectivity efforts in those communities. It represents a dramatic new approach to addressing the digital divide in Tribal communities, which remain among the least well-connected of all across the United States today.

Breaking Down the Bill

The Deploying the Internet by Guaranteeing Indian Tribes Autonomy over Licensing on Reservations Act [pdf] offers significant investment in a multi-pronged approach. It’s driven by twin impulses. From the bill

To date, the [Federal Communications] Commission has failed to implement nationwide spectrum opportunities or uniform licensing for Indian Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to make spectrum available over their Tribal lands or account for the unmet needs of native Nations in compliance with the Federal trust responsibility.

The Commission’s actions parallel failed Federal Reservation Era policy that divided Indian land holdings and created systemic barriers to Indian Tribes’ economic development and legal jurisdictional complications on Tribal lands that continue to disadvantage Tribal communities today.

The bill takes significant steps in outlining the new ownership framework. If enacted, it eliminates future spectrum auctions over Tribal and Native Hawaiian lands. To address existing partnerships with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the bill also provides a process to ensure that existing third-party licensees “build or divest”...

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Posted April 14, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Over the next couple weeks, the Rural Assembly is hosting two livestreamed events on Internet access in rural and Native communities during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The conversations will address the topic from different angles. The first event, scheduled for Thursday, April 16 at 4 p.m. ET, will explore how people in rural areas and on tribal lands are accessing broadband and the impacts of limited connectivity. Speakers at the second session, on Friday, April 22 at 4 p.m. ET, will discuss how federal policymakers and other government officials are addressing the lack of reliable rural broadband and what more needs to be done.

Register now for the free events.

Old Problem, New Urgency

This isn’t a new concern — rural and tribal communities have struggled with inadequate connectivity since before the Internet even existed, when people had to unite to invest in their own telephone networks.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s most recent data, broadband is still unavailable to more than 20 percent of rural Americans. Nearly a quarter of the tribal population also lacks access to broadband infrastructure. Even when broadband is supposedly available, many households still can’t subscribe because federal data overstates coverage and services aren’t always affordable or reliable.

Now, the movement of most life online in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus has raised the stakes for rural and Native communities already impacted by poor broadband access. Not only will communities without adequate connectivity have a harder time keeping people safe at home and connected to essential services like schooling and healthcare during the global crisis, but they will also face a steeper climb out of the economic recession once the pandemic recedes.

Event Details

The Rural Assembly is hosting the first online conversation on Thursday, April 16 at 4 p.m. ET. Panelists will discuss the current state of connectivity in indigenous...

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Posted February 4, 2020 by lgonzalez

On February 3rd, 2020, the FCC opened the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window, a six month period in which federally recognized Tribes or Alaska Native Villages have the opportunity to apply for licenses to unassigned spectrum over their Tribal lands. This week on the podcast, we have two guests from MuralNet — CEO Mariel Triggs and Edyael Casaperalta, Legal Advisor and Policy Strategist. MuralNet, a nonprofit that focuses on helping indigenous people build their own networks, has been working to spread the word about the Rural Tribal Priority Window.

Historically, national Internet access companies have fallen short in bringing their services to people living on tribal lands. A few Tribes have been able to develop their own community networks, but others have found roadblocks when competing with large ISPs for spectrum or for funding. As a result, Tribal communities are some of the least connected in the U.S. Mariel and Edyael discuss how fixed wireless, using the 2.5 Ghz band spectrum is well suited to help solve this persistent problem. They share some of the challenges they’ve faced and offer some tips with deployment and in working to develop policy.

We learn more about the criteria that tribes need to meet in order to apply and how, even if they don’t plan on building their own network, owning access to the spectrum is, nevertheless, empowering. Tribes may not wish to operate a community network, but owning the airwaves above their land gives them some control over how those airwaves are used.

To learn more about the claiming the airwaves over Tribal Land, check out MuralNet’s website here. They're always willing to answer questions and to help with the process.

Legal...

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Posted December 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

For the third year, the Internet Society worked with locals to hold an annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit as a way to teach and share information. In November, participants collaborated to deploy a fixed wireless community broadband network in a small village in Hawai'i and Christopher had the chance to participate.

While he was there, he interviewed Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairman's Association, and Brandon Makaawaawa, Deputy Head of State for Nation of Hawai‘i. Christopher, Matt, and Brandon discuss the summit and the need for connectivity in Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo, the village where summit participants worked with local indigenous folks to build the network in just a few days.

Brandon talked about some of the obstacles that have faced the people of the Nation of Hawai'i and how those obstacles have put them on the wrong side of the digital divide. Without sovereign nation status, like many other indigenous people in the U.S., Brandon's people don't have access to funding. When the opportunity to work with the Internet Society to establish a community network arose, the village jumped at the chance as a way to learn and teach others in Hawai'i.

Learn more about the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit here. Be sure to check out the information on past Summits in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Don't miss Brandon's essay on the importance of...

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