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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.

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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