A bill designed to increase high-speed internet access in the nation’s tribal communities is now being considered in the U.S. Senate.
The Tribal Connect Act of 2017, sponsored by New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich and Nevada Senator Dean Heller, is asking for upwards of $100 million in federal spending to make that access more likely.
“Access to high-speed internet is increasingly essential to daily life and brings unprecedented economic opportunities for users, especially for people living in remote areas,” Heinrich said in introducing the legislation.
A report called America’s Digital Divide, published in September by the Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, said that in more than 200 counties across the country there is currently no access to broadband internet.
The report noted a persistent urban/rural divide on broadband access, adding: “Among rural communities, those found in Indian Country are among those struggling the most to gain access to broadband.”
“Communities in Indian Country are often in some of the most remote areas of the country,” the report continued, “making the barriers to broadband access even bigger for the communities on these lands.”
That same report found that 61 percent of rural residents in New Mexico lacked broadband access. The numbers were equally high in Arizona and Colorado at 63 percent and 53 percent respectively.
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