WASHINGTON --�The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs has released the�National Tribal Broadband Strategy, a work product of the American Broadband Initiative. Designed as�a roadmap for the federal government and the private sector, the NTBS highlights the strategic components to broadband deployment and expansion, and the necessary actions needed to spur investment within American Indian and Alaska Native communities.��
The strategy was developed in collaboration with the White House Council on Native American Affairs.
Regarding the release of the NTBS,�Interior Deputy Secretary Katharine MacGregor said,�"DOI has been at the forefront of expanding broadband access across the country for the American people. The National Tribal Broadband Strategy appropriately focuses on how best to grow broadband capacity and access in Native American communities, which will support economic strength and educational opportunity. I am thankful Indian Affairs was able to deliver this strategy as part of the American Broadband Initiative."
BIA Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney said connectivity within Native communities has been a top priority for the BIA and Interior.
"I assembled a team of dedicated Indian Affairs employees to work collaboratively within the federal family to develop this roadmap,"�said Sweeney. "Thank you to our federal partners and my team at Indian Affairs. This strategy is the foundation upon which the executive and legislative branches can build to create certainty and attract investment for broadband growth within American Indian and Alaska Native communities."
Crosby Kemper, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, said it is critical now more than ever that the federal government support tribal communities and bolster broadband connectivity.
"Tribal libraries and museums across Indian Country and Alaska Native communities provide essential access to the digital resources and services people need," Kemper said. "From facilitating internet connectivity to providing educational, health, digital literacy, and job information, these organizations are critical centers for their communities. We must invest in, partner with, and empower them, and so IMLS is proud to support this new, actionable strategy to lower the barriers to broadband access for rural and tribal communities."
Building on the work of the American Broadband Initiative, the strategy focuses on seven areas for development and proposes 28 actions for the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education and Interior, as well as the Federal Communications Commission, IMLS and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The strategic areas are:
* Coordination: Grow a Community of Practice;
* Data: Improve Data Collection, Analysis, and Reporting; ��
*�Network Building Blocks: Expand Backhaul, Middle Mile, and Spectrum Resources;
* Funding: Promote Public and Private Investment; ��
* Permitting: Reduce Complexity and Delays; ��
* Adoption: Bring Broadband into Homes and Businesses; and��
*�Economic Development: Leverage Broadband for Greater Impact.��
Officials said the strategy considers the diverse ecosystem for tribal broadband development, including more than 20 federal agencies; hundreds of local and national internet service providers; state, local and tribal governments; schools, libraries and cultural centers; banks; community financial development institutions; advocacy groups; and others.
It was guided by tribal input and in partnership with the White House Council on Native American Affairs, and synthesizes recommendations from government, academic and industry sources, officials said.
Officials added that the strategy seeks to overcome the broadband disparities facing tribal communities. While more than 99% of the population in urban areas has access to broadband service meeting a 25/3 Megabits per second speed threshold, only approximately 65% of the population on rural tribal lands has that same access as of the end of 2019.
Insufficient service on tribal lands not only inhibits individuals' access to education, health care, and economic resources, it also impedes tribes' efforts to achieve self-governance and self-determination, officials said.