New legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate designed to accelerate the building of broadband infrastructure on tribal lands, while also reducing the paperwork leading up to the approval of such projects.
The measure, introduced by New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, would establish a working group with the mission of improving federal efforts to build broadband infrastructure in Native communities.
“It is unacceptable that Americans living on tribal lands, in addition to tribal governments, face so many barriers to accessing reliable broadband,” Udall said in a statement.
The Senator added that the legislation, co-sponsored by Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, is entirely focused on “connecting tribal communities with broadband funding and eliminating bureaucratic hurdles so that we can bridge this tribal digital divide.”
If passed, the bill, otherwise known as the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act of 2020, would also set aside both Federal Communications Commission and U.S Department of Agriculture funds for broadband infrastructure construction.
According to a report issued by the FCC in the spring of 2019, fewer than 50 percent of current households on Native lands have access to a fixed broadband service.
The report added that that number represented a significant 27 percentage point difference compared to households in non-tribal rural areas.
The legislation, Senate Bill 3264, is now being reviewed by members of the Committee on Indian Affairs.
By Garry Boulard
Get stories like these right to your inbox.