Commerce, Treasury, and USDA Award Broadband Funding to Tribes Ahead of Historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Investments


President Biden has set a clear goal of ensuring all Americans have access to reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet to learn, work, and participate in the 21st century economy. This includes Native Americans, many of whom lack sufficient access to the internet and the educational and economic opportunities that the internet provides. By one estimate, more than 30 million Americans – many of whom live on Tribal lands or in other rural areas – do not have access to broadband infrastructure that delivers even minimally sufficient speeds. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the entire Administration are committed to changing this through implementation of the broadband provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and tapping into existing resources to ensure that high-speed internet is available throughout our nation.

Today, the White House is announcing nearly $10 million in funding awards from the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, and Agriculture that will be leveraged to expand access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed internet services to Tribal Nations. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to strengthening the resilience and prosperity of Tribal Nations and knows that expanding access to high-speed internet will further that commitment. These resources will help facilitate connections between Tribal communities, deliver laptops and tablets to Tribal members, support capital broadband projects, foster economic growth, and more.

Today’s announcements include:

  • The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarding $3.2 million to connect a Tribe in Colorado to the internet, providing additional economic and entrepreneurial growth across the reservation and region.
  • The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awarding more than $942,000 to Tribes in Arizona and Wisconsin to improve internet speed and connectivity.
  • The Treasury Department announcing the first set of Capital Projects Fund awards in Alaska, California, and Oklahoma, providing Tribal members with laptops and tablets as well as upgrading and constructing community centers to meet internet connectivity needs. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded more than $4.6 million through its Community Connect Program to provide high speed internet connections to Tribal lands in Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, and New Mexico.

These resources are helping close the digital divide and laying the groundwork for an internet revolution in Tribal communities and beyond. In addition to the funding the Biden-Harris Administration is mobilizing under existing broadband programs, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a total $65 billion to deploy broadband where it is needed across the country, including $2 billion directly for Tribal communities. The law includes a requirement for companies that accept funding to provide at least one low-cost broadband option, funds broadband subsidies for low-income consumers, provides support for states to adopt and implement digital equity and inclusion plan, and directs the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules that make it easier for consumers to understand and compare broadband plans offered by different providers. In so doing, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help ensure that everyone can connect to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet services.

CONNECTING TRIBES TO PROMOTE ECONOMIC RESILIENCE AND PROSPERITY

The Economic Development Agency (EDA) at the Department of Commerce is awarding $3.2 million to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Towaoc, Colorado, to construct broadband infrastructure that will connect the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation and the City of Towaoc to the City of Cortez, increasing access to distance learning and telemedicine, supporting public safety, and allowing for business and entrepreneurial growth across the reservation and region. This EDA investment is expected to create 33 jobs and generate $550,000 in private investment.

IMPROVING CONNECTIVITY ON TRIBAL LANDS

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the Department of Commerce is making a second set of awards totaling more than $942,000 under its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. Those awards will go to the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Camp Verde, Arizona and the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Stone Lake, Wisconsin.

The awards will be for feasibility and planning studies to determine the best way to provide broadband services to reach 2,500 members of the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the approximately 40% of Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians with no internet service available to them.

NTIA is continuing to review the more than 280 remaining applications received for the $980 million Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and will announce additional awards on a rolling basis in the coming weeks and months. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides an additional $2 billion in funding for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.  Early next year, NTIA will conduct tribal consultations in order to determine how best to solicit applications for the additional funding.

BUILDING TRIBAL BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE

The Treasury Department is announcing its first set of awards from the $10 Billion Capital Projects Fund which funds projects designed to jointly and directly enable work, education, and health monitoring and specifically allows for investment in high-quality broadband infrastructure as well as other connectivity infrastructure, devices, and equipment. Tribal governments may each receive up to $167,504 for eligible projects from the Capital Projects Fund.

The Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewarts Point Rancheria, California, and the Rampart Village of Alaska will each be receiving $167,504 awards. The first two awards will be used to purchase laptops or tablets for use by Tribal members, and to outfit community rooms where members can access the internet.

The award to Rampart Village in Alaska will be used to help fund construction of a multi-purpose building that will be used for education, training for work, and health activities. It will provide space for job skills training and other adult education. The project will also include space for community internet access, a service that does not currently exist in the area.

The Treasury Department is continuing to review applications for the $10 Billion Capital Projects Fund and will announce additional awards on a rolling basis. Applications are still being accepted for the Capital Projects Fund, more information is available on the Department of Treasury’s website

PROVIDING HIGH-SPEED INTERNET IN RURAL TRIBAL COMMUNITIES

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded more than $4.6 million, as part of its Community Connect program, to fund broadband infrastructure on Tribal lands. The awards are being made to a tribe in Iowa, a tribal utility authority operating in Arizona and New Mexico, and to serve a tribal community in Alaska:

In addition to deploying new broadband infrastructure, each award recipient will provide two years of free internet access at a local community center. 

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