Press Release Rural Broadband Access

Public Knowledge Applauds Bill Amendment Extending Tribal Window for Broadband Access

November 18, 2020 , , , , ,
newspaper

Today the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs amended S. 3264, the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act. The bill addresses broadly the needs of Tribal communities in securing access to broadband, including streamlining rights-of-way processes, creating interagency working groups to improve coordination against agencies working to promote broadband adoption on Tribal lands, and setting aside federal funding to support Tribal broadband adoption.

Additionally, today’s amendments include a requirement that the Federal Communications Commission open a new 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window that would last at least 180 days, in order to create additional time for Tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations to apply for unassigned spectrum licenses over their lands.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window, a priority window of time that allows rural Tribes to apply for free spectrum that they can use to provide wireless broadband service for their communities. Tribes have faced significant hurdles to finishing their applications on time due to the COVID-19 crisis, and advocates like Public Knowledge have called on both the FCC and Congress to ensure a 180-day extension.

The following can be attributed to Jenna Leventoff, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window allows rural Tribes to apply for free spectrum that they can use to provide wireless broadband service for their communities. It’s essential, as 36% of Tribal households — about 628,000 households nationwide — don’t have access to broadband at standard speeds. It’s the first step to address a long history of poor broadband service on Tribal lands.

“As we’ve said in the past, Tribes deserve better. Creating a new Rural Tribal Window is one small way Congress and the FCC can fulfill their commitment to Tribes. Doing so is the first step to addressing the inequities of this underserved population: It will give Tribes an actual chance to secure broadband access for their communities. We urge the Senate to move this bill forward.”

To learn more, read “FCC: Don’t Abandon Tribes During a Pandemic, Extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window” on our blog.