Tag: "tribal"

Posted February 10, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

Last week we published a new case study report on four Native Nations (the Coeur d’Alene, the Nez Perce, the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe, and the St. Regis Mohawk) who set out to build their own broadband networks after being left behind for decades by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the region. At the same time, we launched a new resource documenting existing Native Nations Networks with some key resources for others in Indian Country considering their own.

Read more from report author H. Trostle in a recent article in High Country News about the goals of the study, the connectivity challenges for tribes, the importance of Spectrum Sovereignty in getting those communities connected, and the creativity and persistence it has taken to get these networks off the ground so that those communities have opportunities to live, learn, and work online. 

Two recent pieces from American Public Media’s Marketplace Tech add welcome additional emphasis on the importance of these issues. The first, published Monday, profiles the progress made in building a wireless network by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Northwest Montana, bringing broadband to 1,300 square miles in the region, and one of the first success stories to come out in part as a result of the FCC’s 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window last year. 

The second, an interview with Matthew Rantanen, Director of Technology at the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, highlights just how big the need is for connectivity solutions for Indian Country. With Molly Wood, he discusses the possibilities offered by the new administration and the potential impact of the $1 billion in funds in the current version of the Coronavirus...

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Posted February 4, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-...

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...
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Posted January 6, 2021 by Anonymous

This piece was authored by Jericho Casper from Broadband Breakfast.

The digital divide afflicting the United States has become even more apparent throughout the pandemic, repositioning the issue of universal broadband access to the forefront of many Washington policy agendas, including that of President-elect Joe Biden.

The Biden presidential campaign’s website early on included a plan for rural America that highlighted how the COVID-19 crisis deepened many of the challenges that were already confronting Americans, including “lack of access to health care, unreliable broadband, and the chronic under funding of public schools.”

The plan further states that “Americans everywhere need universal, reliable, affordable, and high-speed Internet access to do their jobs, participate equally in remote school learning and stay connected” and promises to “expand broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American.”

Biden’s Top Four Priorities Convey an Urgent Need for Advanced Infrastructure

Of the challenges facing the incoming administration of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, it seems clear that universal broadband is critical to each of them.

Biden’s campaign website specifically lists universal broadband as a priority in bolstering economic recovery, fighting climate change, and advancing racial economic equity. Universal access to broadband also underscores  the fourth top policy initiative listed on the Biden campaign website, battling COVID-19, although the incoming administration fails to link broadband as a precondition for this priority.

As a presidential candidate, Biden called broadband a tool to put Americans to work during a visit to Hermantown, Minnesota.

The campaign’s plan for economic recovery specifically links the country’s financial recovery to mobilizing American work forces in the construction of  “modern, sustainable infrastructure” and “sustainable engines of growth,” connecting universal broadband to building a clean energy economy, addressing the climate crisis, and creating millions of “good-paying, union jobs.”

...

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Posted December 11, 2020 by sean

Last week we began our broad overview of the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, sweeping legislation that calls for a $100 billion investment in broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved parts of the country, as well as federal funding and coordinated support to meet the myriad of barriers that prevent tens of millions of Americans from having access to affordable and reliable Internet connectivity.

The bill (H.R. 7302) has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives led by House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) and members of the House Rural Broadband Task Force. The Senate version of the bill (S. 4131), which was filed by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, has stalled, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who has “has buried the legislation in his graveyard,” in the words of Rep. Clyburn.

In this second-installment of a series of posts exploring the major sections contained in the proposed legislation, we look at the “Title I – Digital Equity” portion of the bill.

New Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG)

The first thing the legislation does is requires the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information to establish an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The new office, which would be allocated a $26 million annual budget, would run point on federal outreach to communities who lack access, or need better broadband access, via regional workshops, trainings, and the drafting of reports that would provide guidance on best-practices.

The office would also be required to track federal spending on any broadband related expenditures, as well as coordinate with other federal agencies to conduct a study on how affordability factors into households’ lack of connectivity...

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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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