AT&T Addressing the Digital Divide on Tribal Lands

AT&T increased coverage on tribal lands by more than 40% between 2020 and 2022, according to a blog post from Rachel Salinas, president of ICAE, the Inter-Tribal Council of AT&T Employees.

The company also expanded the FirstNet mobile broadband public safety network to move than 70 tribal nations. The post cites a recent AT&T collaboration with the Cherokee Nation that brought a cellsite to Kenwood, Oklahoma that supports FirstNet connectivity, as well as general connectivity for the tribe.

Salina noted that one woman no longer has to drive 10 miles to get cellphone connectivity.

An AT&T spokesperson confirmed in an email to Telecompetitor that some of the costs of the Cherokee Nation build were covered by federal funding.

AT&T also has opened Connected Learning Centers on several reservations. The learning centers provide access to “free high-speed internet, computer and online learning and digital literacy resources for those who face connectivity barriers,” Salinas said in the blog post about the AT&T tribal initiatives.

Finally, AT&T also has distributed more than 500 free laptops to members of five California tribes and has begun deploying fiber broadband with the San Pasqual tribe that will serve more than 500 locations in Valley Center, California on the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians’ tribal land and will help expand learning opportunities that include a casino and other tribal business ventures.

The San Pasqual build did not use any state or federal funding, the FCC spokesperson said.

Tribal broadband connectivity should see further gains, now that the U.S. government has made funding available to cover some of the costs.

Updated with information from an AT&T spokesperson

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