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The NTIA revealed additional details on its Tribal broadband program, officially known as the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP). The program will provide up to $1 billion to improve broadband on Tribal lands.

According to a recent report from ILSR, citing FCC data, only 60% percent of tribal lands in the lower 48 states had high-speed Internet access.

The TBCP is funded from the recent Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which also funded other broadband programs, including $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit program. These programs aim to support communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by helping improve access to broadband.

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The TBCP program stipulates that grant funds be prioritized for unserved areas. Specifically, the NTIA Tribal broadband program will provide funding for the following:

  • Broadband infrastructure deployment, including support for the establishment of carrier-neutral submarine cable landing stations
  • Affordable broadband programs, including:
    1. providing free or reduced-cost broadband service
    2. preventing disconnection of existing broadband service
    3. distance learning
    4. telehealth
    5. digital inclusion efforts
    6. broadband adoption activities

Eligible entities for the TBCP program include: 1) Tribal governments; 2) Tribal colleges and universities; 3) the Department of Hawaiian Homelands on behalf of the Native Hawaiian Community, including Native Hawaiian education programs; 4) Tribal organizations; and 5) native corporations as defined under Section 3 of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

NTIA wants to make grants available through the Tribal broadband program as quickly as possible. The agency is holding a series of consultation sessions this week on Feb. 10th and 12th to gain tribal input on the program. Tribal leadership and their designees are encouraged to participate.

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