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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.

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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.

Reporter T.J. York received his degree in political science from the University of Southern California. He has experience working for elected officials and in campaign research. He is interested in the effects of politics in the tech sector.

Tribal Broadband

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

The NTIA awarded four grants worth $1.2 million.

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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

Relationship Building Key to Connecting Tribal Communities: USDA Policy Advisor

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

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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 BroadbandBreakfast.com 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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Funding

ReConnect Rep Warns of ISPs Asking for More Subsidies Than Needed for Builds

Shekinah Pepper said Wednesday tribal communities should be on alert for service providers asking for chunks of subsidies upfront.

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Photo of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack from 2010

WASHINGTON, Feb 3, 2022 – Shekinah Pepper, the general field representative for the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, warned tribal communities Wednesday that internet service providers may try demand from them more of their program subsidies than they need to build out broadband in their areas.

At an event hosted by the Agriculture Department, Pepper said that he has heard of different tribes that have been approached by service providers who demand that they give them 25 percent — or more — of their subsidies upfront for a build.

“When people start asking for money up front, I would be a little cautious,” said Pepper, adding if a tribe is approached by an ISP that wants a down payment, Pepper encourages awardees to confer with their general field representative as a precaution before moving forward.

“With the amount of money flying around, you do get groups that are out there looking for easy prey, and we just don’t want to see that happen,” Pepper said.

Wednesday’s event was convened to discuss the allocation of grant money to tribal and underserved communities in its third round of distribution, whose deadline for applications is February 22. Currently the program has about $1.15 billion dollars to distribute amongst different broadband projects.

The ReConnect Program is a subset of the Rural Utilities Service, an office within the Department of Agriculture. The program provides funding to broadband project across the country through grants, loans, or a combination of both. The program has put away $350 million in grants that can only be awarded to tribal communities or underserved communities.

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