The administration will make $1 billion in grants available for broadband on tribal land, Vice President Kamala Harris said at the White House on Thursday. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will offer grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian entities for broadband deployment as well as for digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth and distance learning.
“For generations, a lack of infrastructure investment in Indian Country has left tribes further behind in the digital divide than most areas of the country,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “We have a responsibility as a country to build infrastructure that will fuel economic development, keep communities safe, and ensure everyone has opportunities to succeed.”
The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program was established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. NTIA will administer the program. The funds will be used to deploy broadband infrastructure, establish affordable broadband programs, and support digital inclusion across Indian Country to lessen the digital divide.
The grant program will focus on connecting tribal communities that have the greatest needs when it comes to basic broadband services. Despite the increasing necessity of broadband access, only half of households on tribal lands subscribe to fixed home internet service, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and some areas lack basic cell reception.
Infrastructure grants will also fuel job growth on tribal lands, notes the administration, which says tribal projects should be built and maintained by a tribal workforce.
NTIA will make up to $980,000,000 available for federal assistance. In accordance with the Act, NTIA will allocate at least $30,000,000 for Native Hawaiians and up to $500,000 to each of the federally recognized tribes delineated by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.
NTIA is holding a series of webinars to inform the public about the program. The next Tribal Broadband Connectivity webinars will be held on June 16 and 17.