Groups Urge FCC to Advance Policies for Broadband-Enabling Infrastructure in Tribal Regions

On November 9, 2022, a group of organizations met with the Federal Communications Commission's Office of Native Affairs and Policy to discuss the need for policies for broadband-enabling infrastructure in Tribal regions. The groups included NTCA, Mescalero Apache Telecom, Moss Adams, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Tohono O'odham Utility Authority, and Akiak Holdings. The parties explained that generational funding opportunities provided for by COVID relief laws and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) present unprecedented opportunities to deploy broadband infrastructure in Tribal regions. However, less clear is the provision of ongoing support that will enable the longer-term sustainability of those networks and the affordability of services offered over them. The parties expressed their concern that newly built networks in deeply rural areas such as Tribal lands will not be financially viable on an ongoing basis as the costs to operate those networks exceed amounts that can be reasonably recovered solely through end-user rates, thereby undermining clear Congressional intent to close the digital divide in Indian Country. The parties clarified the difference between programs that focus on the
capital expense investments of initial deployments and the need for ongoing support to enable reasonably comparable services at reasonably comparable rates for users in rural and insular areas. The parties explained that the costs to deploy and operate advanced broadband networks in Tribal regions are significantly higher than average National costs. A variety of resources on solutions for policymakers to consider were included, which can be found here.

Letter to the Federal Communications Commission