WASHINGTON, December 11, 2009 - The FCC's forthcoming national broadband strategy must include steps to improve services to Native Americans, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps told attendees Thursday delivering the keynote at the Practicing Law Institute's Telecommunications Policy and Regulatory Institute.
"Broadband must leave no man behind," Copps said, including "the original Americans," who often live without basic service, much less broadband services.
"I have seen first-hand the state of communications in Indian Country...It is nothing to be proud of," Copps said.
Telephone service penetration lags around 70 percent of Native American households, Copps said, calling the number "shockingly low." But Copps was more concerned about the state of broadband data in Indian Country - or lack thereof. "[W]e don’t even begin to have reliable data on the status of Internet subscribership on tribal lands, because no one has bothered to collect it," he said.
Anecdotal evidence shows broadband access on tribal lands is "minimal," he said, calling the situation "unacceptable" and "a national disgrace." Native Americans need broadband to fully participate in the 21st century economy, he said. Broadband is "critical" to the growth and possibly survival of their communities, he said. "A good broadband plan for Indian Country will make a huge difference."