Nationwide Dig Once Act, Funding for Tribal Broadband, LEO Library with StarLink, WISPA Call to Action

Rep. Anna Eshoo reintroduces her ‘dig once’ legislation, Vice President touts Tribal funding, plus a new LEO library.

Nationwide Dig Once Act, Funding for Tribal Broadband, LEO Library with StarLink, WISPA Call to Action
Photo of Rep. Anna Eshoo in January 2019 by Internet Education Foundation used with permission

June 4, 2021 – On Thursday, Reps. Anna G. Eshoo, introduced legislation to expand internet services to rural and underserved communities.

The reintroduced bill, the Nationwide Dig Once Act, would mandate the use of broadband conduits during construction of federally funded roads. The bill aims to put processes in place for state and federal government to communicate about where and when federally-funded roads and highways being constructed.

Speaking on the bill, Eshoo said that it would, “put in place crucial infrastructure needed to bring internet service to the most underserved communities.”

NTIA announces nearly $1 billion for Tribal broadband

In coordination with Vice President Kamala Harris, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced nearly $1 billion in funds through the U.S. Department of Commerce for providing broadband access on Tribal land.

This funding, part of legislation already passed, is separate from the proposed $100 billion being put forward to President Joe Biden in the American Jobs Plan.

Harris tweeted Thursday afternoon that “1 in 3 Americans who live on Tribal lands or in rural communities lack access to high-speed Internet.” She urged Congress to continue working to pass the American Jobs Plan in addition to this funding.

This funding through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program established earlier this year, has the goal of establishing digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth and distance learning.

A new LEO library

SpaceX, Starlink, and the Gigabit Libraries Network have teamed up to create three public libraries that use its low earth orbit satellite broadband system.

Don Means of GLN said that “There are many things to learn about how these new systems may serve towards closing the persistent rural divide and integrate into the wider telecom ecosystem.”

The project aims to be the first of its kind to yield faster connection speeds and lower latency than with traditional satellite-based internet services. Many in areas where these low-earth orbit systems are operating are reporting faster internet speeds and more accessibility to online schooling than previously, said Means.

WISPA president pushes for action

Wireless Internet Service Providers Association President Claude Aiken on Thursday urged the Biden Administration to tackle broadband issues as strongly as it was approaching the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an op-ed published Thursday in Morning Consult, Aiken said that the pandemic showed the true consequences of the digital divide.

“To end the COVID pandemic, we need all vaccines in arms as fast as possible. Broadband is no different. All technologies need to be in play in closing the connectivity gap.” Aiken said.

He said the administration needed to make use of all existing and potentially successful technologies.

He also urged the White House to adopt the same “science and truth” approach to broadband that it has applied to the pandemic.

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