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Tribal Broadband

Rural Assembly Paints Dire Picture About Lack of Broadband, Impact of Coronavirus in Indian Country



Photo of Loris Taylor of the Hopi Nation, and CEO of Native Public Media

April 24, 2020—A host of guests at the Rural Assembly webinar on Wednesday painted a grim picture of the state of broadband in rural and tribal life.

The webinar, titled “Has the government’s response been accurate?” attempted to answer that question related these often- forgotten communities.

“The connectivity is not where it needs to be on the rural side of things,” said Roberto Gallardo, assistant director for the Center for Regional Development at Purdue University.

Some of the trends regarding overall progress in broadband connectivity over the years “have been encouraging,” Gallardo said.

But he complained that “there is no digital parity,” referencing the large chasm between connectivity in urban and rural areas.

To illustrate his point, Gallardo related data that his team had recently published: 2 percent of urban households have access to only one provider, while 33 percent of rural households have access to only one provider— a 16-fold difference!

While Gallardo acknowledged that the data is predicated upon the roundly criticized Federal Communications Commission’s 477 data, he assured listeners that its conclusions were reliable.

Edyael Casaperalta, an attorney at Casaperalta Law in Denver, outlined to viewers the four traditional routes for relief that the FCC has offered ever since their establishment by the 1996 Telecommunications Act: LifeLine, E-Rate, Rural Health Care, and High-Cost.

Jenna Leventoff, senior policy council at Public Knowledge, related several other vehicles by which the government is administering aid to rural communities.

Congress has recently allocated $100 million for the United States Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program. Additionally, Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., has recently proposed a bill to pour $2 billion into E-Rate, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has proposed a bill to funnel $2 billion to small carriers so that they can provide free internet to low-income Americans who can’t pay their bills.

Irene Flannery, director of AMERIND’s Critical Infrastructure, a tribally-owned insurance provider seeking to facilitate broadband for American Indians,  advocated that the FCC expand the tribal priority window for its 2.5 GHz Auction.

Flannery said that the epidemic has set tribal governments in disarray and that they would need at least 12 months to put forth a sufficient application.

Loris Taylor, CEO of Native Public Media, related the devastating effect that COVID has had on tribal populations. According to Taylor, the Navajo Nation is among the top of the country in terms of coronavirus deaths when compared with other states.

Some tribes are even vulnerable of going extinct because of the coronavirus, she said.

In addition, the Navajo Nation has been under a weekend-wide curfew of 67 hours every on a weekly basis.

“People are dying, and they’re suffering—physically, emotionally, spiritually. Where infrastructure is limited the anxiety is even more pronounced.”

“Unfortunately, this is our test” said Gallardo, referring to the ordeal rural communities are facing at the hands of COVID. “And I’m afraid were not going to do very well.”

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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