Digital Divide Blog Posts

During this year's Native American Heritage Month, Tribal leaders and high-level White House Officials constructed discourse with respect to issues important in Indian Country.  The 2021 Tribal Nations Summit (the Summit), hosted by the White House, was held on November 15th and 16th. This is the first time the Summit has taken place since 2016. The Summit presented a unique opportunity for nation-to-nation dialogue on support to Tribal communities to create opportunities, advance equity, and address new and long-standing challenges. Topics addressed included Infrastructure, Native languages, climate change and COVID-19. Several members of the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) attended the Summit.

The Summit commenced by releasing the “White House Tribal...

 It was a whirlwind of a month at AIPI. It is exciting when we’re able to fulfill our mission of service to Indian Country as an Indigenous-led and staffed non-teaching research institute. It is exciting to be a part of the solution.  

As subject matter experts on Tribal Digital Equity and Broadband in Indian Country, we are leading the dialogue and discourse in many arenas. My staff has been busy representing AIPI well. Our Policy Analyst EJ John and Policy Research Assistant Sadie Vermillion, lent a supportive hand to NCAI on broadband issues and participated in the Telecommunications and Technology Sub-Committee at the Annual Convention. They participated in conferences and were interviewed...

After years of advocacy, the FCC is finally taking action to make needed improvements to the The Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries, also known as E-rate. On October 14, 2021, the FCC published a notice in the Federal Register of a proposed rule to make Tribal libraries eligible to participate in the E-rate program. The program was established under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This program uses funding from the Universal Service Fund to increase internet access to qualifying schools and libraries by assisting with discounted telecommunication service. Internet access in schools and libraries is a crucial service offered...

Image Credit: Christopher Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for the Internet Society

Knowing how technology works on the ground is key to successful broadband policy and research. To increase my own knowledge to better serve Tribal Nations through AIPI’s work, I spent the July 4th weekend at the Tribal Wireless Bootcamp at Rantanen Ranch in Southern California. The bootcamp was a chance to learn firsthand how Tribes can deploy their own wireless internet networks.

The Tribal Wireless Bootcamp was funded by the Internet Society, and my role was to determine the replicability of the bootcamp. To gather more information and insight, AIPI is surveying...

On Monday, June 7, 2021, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the launch of a new data dashboard which tracks the progress of the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBB). The EBB Data Dashboard was established to monitor the number of claims made to the EBB Program and sorts the claims into categories by state and Tribes. The dashboard will also provide information on the amount of money spent throughout the duration of the EBB program. 

As of June 6, 2021, the dashboard shows 61,442 claims made from households on Tribal Lands. Unfortunately, the data does not specify which areas these claims...

Last week, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, and Secretary Gina Raimondo announced the launch of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The program consists of $1 billion in grants from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and will be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration(NTIA). Grants under this program can be used for broadband deployment, digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth and distance learning.

  • .Applications are due September 1, 2021 at 11:59pm PDT.
  • Eligible entities must submit a single application by the application deadline to be eligible for program funding.

  • The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is not a formula or block grant program and a single application for

  • ...

Congress ordered the FCC to create a broadband mapping system that empowers community members to challenge insufficient broadband access. They have not done so in “Establishing the Digital Opportunity Data Collection: Modernizing the FCC Form 477 Data Program” (April 2021).

The current system is a map made by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which reports where their service territory is or could easily be. ISPs report their fastest service tier that they offer in any particular area. This information is not verified by the FCC before publication, and the FCC maps have been picked apart a number of times. They offer us a best-case scenario of what Internet access in the...

Broadband is critical for Indian Country, but it is often unavailable. In 2019, the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) found that 18 percent of Tribal reservation residents have no Internet access, while 33 percent rely on smartphones for Internet service. Even where broadband is available, the cost can be a barrier to access. It is crucial that Tribal communities have broadband access for education, work, and healthcare, all of which will be more accessible via the Emergency Broadband Benefits program (EBB).

The Emergency Broadband Benefit program provides benefits for a single Internet connection per home and will allow eligible households to receive a monthly discount on broadband access from their Internet provider. The...

Indian Country has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, largely due to existing inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. Inadequate healthcare, a lack of housing, and underdeveloped infrastructure increased the severity of COVID-19 in Tribal communities. This resulted in an infection rate four times higher, and tragically, mortality rates twice that of other populations. The pandemic’s disproportionate impact emphasizes the importance of addressing underlying systemic inequality as the threat of COVID-19 slowly dissipates and we attempt a return to a ‘new normal’.  

Despite the pandemic’s severity, Indian Country has risen to meet every challenge head-on. Over the past year, Tribal Nations worked tirelessly to efficiently utilize available resources and find innovative ways to...

Arizona State University is committed to serving its Indigenous students, especially in uncertain times, such as these. We know that Indigenous students are less likely than their peers to have adequate internet access at home, which makes online learning extremely difficult if not impossible. Earlier this year, we published a policy brief that outlined the challenges students face and listed public policy decisions that can bring about change for the good. As an institution of higher education, ASU has a responsibility to be socially embedded and transform society, aiming to effectuate positive change for the communities and peoples it serves. 

Fortunately, this map of free public Wi-Fi hotspots shows...

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