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Tribal Broadband

Wireless Broadband Likely to be a Key Component in Getting Broadband to Tribal Country



Photo of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the National Tribal Broadband Summit by Masha Abarinova

WASHINGTON, September 24, 2019 – Better broadband and 5G development is essential to the livelihood of tribal communities, according to representatives from government and telecom at the National Tribal Broadband Summit on Tuesday.

Many tribal members have no clear idea of who owns the available spectrum and how to access it, said Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., in the opening remarks. People living on tribal lands primarily use their cellular devices to access the internet.

Going forward, she said, better broadband mapping is only the baseline of determining what tribal communities need to improve their access.

Also in attendance was U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Few students in tribal communities have broadband access, she said, and that only encompasses the public education system.

Establishing a broadband connection is only a means to an end, DeVos said. The untapped potential of American internet is critical for improving education.

The ongoing development of 5G service was an important discussion during the summit, as mass deployment could benefit both tribal and rural communities.

A decade ago, nobody could have foreseen the benefits that fourth-generation wireless networks, including LTE, would bring to productivity, said former Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell.

5G wireless capabilities are expected to be 100 times faster than the current capacity for high-speed internet, he said. The antennas for 5G towers are expected to be built much closer together.

The greatest percentage of Americans who lack access to fixed terrestrial broadband are those residing in tribal and rural areas, said Steve Sharkey, vice president of Government Affairs at T-Mobile.

Coverage information that can be verified by customers is crucial, he said. That is why T-Mobile is committed to instating nationwide drive tests in order to foster better connectivity.

Sharkey outlined several steps that need to be taken for 5G to become mainstream in the next few years. First, 5G must be integrated into 4G interworking, followed by standalone deployments in several cities. After trial deployments, densification and redeployment of spectrum is required before 5G enters the marketplace.

McDowell claimed that part of the purpose of the Sprint-T-Mobile merger was to use broadband’s untapped market to connect rural Americans with 600 MHz spectrum.

The main goal for furthering 5G development is to create a more cohesive process with our federal and industry partners, said Billy Dove, advisor to the office of the assistant secretary of land and minerals management at the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Interior Department has historically played a leading role in matters between the U.S. and American Indians.

Speaking at the tribal summit on Monday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai highlighted some of the successes that some tribes were having in closing the digital divide. For example, he referenced Trace Fiber, a Tribally-owned subsidiary of the Chickasaw Nation, which is currently building out a 500-mile fiber ring.

He also highlight how Red Spectrum Communications is bringing broadband to Tribal members using fiber and fixed wireless technologies at the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in Idaho.

Pai also highlighted the FCC’s action to allow rural Indian tribes an exclusive window to obtain Educational Broadband Spectrum to serve rural Tribal lands.

“That’s right,” Paid said, “Before any commercial auction of this spectrum, Tribes can obtain this spectrum for free.  his is the first time in the FCC’s history that we have ever given Tribal entities what we call a ‘priority window’ to obtain spectrum for wireless broadband. I’m proud that it is happening under my watch, and I hope that Tribes will take advantage of it.”

Tribal Broadband

NTIA Approves $1.2M in Grants for Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program

The NTIA awarded four grants worth $1.2 million.



Photo from Native News Online by Kyle Edwards

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2022 — The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced late last month that it has awarded four grants worth nearly $1.2 million as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

The grants, which are being awarded across California, Washington, and Wisconsin, will “fund broadband infrastructure deployment projects to expand internet access to the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in California, Forest County Potawatomi Community in Wisconsin, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe in Washington State, and the St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin,” according to the press release.

Alan Davidson, the assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, said that the “NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is playing a crucial role in meeting the mission and closing the digital divide by expanding internet access to tribal communities and connecting them to schools, health care services, business opportunities and more.”

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which was funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, makes $980 million available for grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entities for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning.

Davidson will be a guest speaker at Broadband Breakfast for Lunch on April 13, in which he will speak about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides $65 billion for broadband infrastructure.

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Tribal Broadband

USDA Anticipates Infrastructure Technical Assistance Tailored Towards Tribal Applicants

At a White House event an agency representative said webinar programs are likely for Indigenous communities.



Photo of Edyael Casaperalta by the Rural Assembly

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2022 – A representative of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services said Thursday that the agency will likely host webinars aimed specifically towards Tribal applicants for programs of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The comments came during USDA’s participation in a program of the White House to provide information on how entities may pursue funding for broadband infrastructure builds of the bill that was signed in November.

RUS senior policy advisor Edyael Casaperalta fielded questions for the agency at the online event and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s prominent associate administrator Doug Kinkoph was present to speak as well.

The NTIA has now hosted multiple technical assistance webinars for program applicants, like those events USDA says it will host.

The session also emphasized that projects seeking funds from the NTIA will in fact require approval and selection by states to receive grant money, and that there will be constant efforts from the involved government agencies to ensure that those areas most in need receive broadband projects – making sure to include urban areas lacking in internet access.

“Engaging in the digital equity ensures that the skill sets and understanding how to best leverage that connection is, is fulfilled,” said Kinkoph.

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Tribal Broadband

Relationship Building Key to Connecting Tribal Communities: USDA Policy Advisor

‘You should build a relationship with your telecommunications field representative,’ Edyael Casaperalta said.



WASHINGTON, March 10, 2022 – Building relationships is key to the success of rolling out broadband infrastructure in tribal communities through the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, a department advisor said Wednesday.

“These are individuals who know the lay of the land in the state they oversee, they know the players, they can help you build relationships, they can guide you through our processes, they can explain the nitty gritty details of our programs, they can help you think through what programs are best for you at this moment and what programs can help you to build for the future,” Edyael Casaperalta, senior policy advisor in the department’s Rural Utilities Service, said during a Broadband Breakfast for Lunch event.

“You should build a relationship with your telecommunications field representative,” she added.

The ReConnect program, originally launched in December 2018, offers funding through grants, loans, and grant-loan combinations. The USDA is encouraging anyone interested in building infrastructure to apply for a grant, loan, or a grant-loan combination. The latest round of ReConnect funding closed its application process Wednesday.

Casaperalta recommended that those interested in building broadband infrastructure on tribal lands should develop a positive relationship with the tribal government of that land.

Photo Edyael Casaperalta and Drew Clark at a Broadband Breakfast event Wednesday by Megan Boswell

“Anyone interested in serving a tribal land is required to show a resolution of consent from the tribal government of that land,” she said. “The tribal government has jurisdiction. They are the ultimate deciders of who builds what where.”

“We are consciously encouraging all hands on deck because that’s what it takes to connect rural communities,” she said.

There are two ways to participate in this event: IN PERSON or LIVE ONLINE. To attend IN PERSON, sign up to attend in person through Eventbrite. Please arrive for lunch at Clyde’s of Gallery Place, 707 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C., by 11:30 a.m. to be seated for lunch. The program will begin promptly at 12 Noon ET.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. You can also PARTICIPATE ONLINE in the current Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Zoom.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 12 Noon ET — Preparing for the IIJA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides a number of programs that, all told, provide $65 billion for broadband infrastructure investment. A part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed 69-30 last year, the measure was touted during the State of the Union address by President Joe Biden as the beginning of an “infrastructure decade” for the United States. In this first session of this Broadband Breakfast for Lunch series, Broadband Breakfast and Broadband.Money will explore what the federal government, states and infrastructure builders – public and private – should be doing to prepare for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grant program.

There are two ways to participate in this event: IN PERSON though Eventbrite, or LIVE ONLINE through Zoom.

Panelists for this Broadband Breakfast Live Online session:

  • Edyael Casaperalta, Senior Policy Advisor, Rural Utilities Service, USDA
  • Drew Clark (host), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources:

Edyael Casaperalta is Senior Policy Advisor for the Rural Utilities Service in the Department of Agriculture. Casaperalta is an attorney who has worked with Tribes, rural and underrepresented communities in telecommunications matters. She is from Elsa, Texas, a small border town in the Rio Grande Valley.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney. Drew brings experts and practitioners together to advance the benefits provided by broadband. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he served as head of a State Broadband Initiative, the Partnership for a Connected Illinois. He is also the President of the Rural Telecommunications Congress.

This Broadband Breakfast for Lunch event is co-hosted with:

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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