Today, the Department of Commerce announced that 19 grants totaling nearly $77 million have been awarded to Indian Country under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity program. The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is a federal program that directs the deployment of broadband on tribal lands for use in telehealth, distance learning, and access to reliable and affordable internet.
“For too long, tribal communities have been cut off from the benefits of high-speed internet, and the economic benefits that come with it,” US Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement on Wednesday. “From running a business, to taking online classes, to booking doctor appointments, the internet is a necessary tool to participate in our modern economy, and it is an absolute injustice that this resource has been denied to so many Native Americans across our country.”
Grants are given to tribes in 10 states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.
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More than $35 million will be awarded to the Federation of Alaska Natives (AFN), which is made up of 73 Alaska Native tribal governments, Alaska Native Societies (ANCs), and tribal organizations. AFN aims to reduce barriers to broadband use among Alaska Natives by providing broadband-enabled devices, subsidizing broadband service, and implementing digital skills and training of the work force.
“This critical funding will bring affordable high-speed internet service to tribes from Alaska to Rhode Island, and many places in between, expanding access to telehealth, distance learning and workforce development. work,” said Raimondo.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe received $2.3 million and plans to lower the cost of broadband internet service through the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority (CRSTTA). CRSTTA provides 90% of the Cheyenne River Reservation’s 2.8 million acres, but only 58% subscribe to broadband service due to cost. Implementation of this project will enable Internet adoption activities, including digital inclusion efforts and affordable Internet programs, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program was funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. It allocated $980 million for grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Hawaiian entities for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth and distance learning. To date, the program has funded over $83 million for 34 projects.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Act recently signed into law by President Joe Biden provides an additional $2 billion in funding for broadband connectivity in Indian Country, part of a historic $65 billion investment to expand broadband throughput in communities across the United States.
About the Author: “Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist based in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, where he also contributes to Unicorn Riot, an alternative media publication. Thompson has reported on the unrest Politics, Tribal Sovereignty and Indigenous Issues for the Indigenous Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot He has contributed to The New York Times, The Washington Post and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in the international conversation. holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology and legal studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.”
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