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With Tribal broadband advocates working to establish better Internet connectivity across Indian Country as the NTIA directs unprecedented federal investments to expand broadband infrastructure, the Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) will lead a timely virtual webinar on tribal broadband next week.
“Nuts, Bolts, and Cables: Opportunities in Tribal Broadband” is being hosted by the CICD, headquartered at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University.
Slated for October 16th from 2:00-3:30 CT, the webinar will bring together researchers, advocates, network operators, and federal policymakers for a conversation about the challenges and opportunities for Native Nations working to improve Internet access and broadband infrastructure.
The third webinar in a series on "Cultivating Native Economies in the 21st Century," next week’s session will give participants the chance to hear from panelists and presenters with a wealth of expertise in Tribal broadband. Dr. Traci Morris (Chickasaw) and Geoff Blackwell (Muscogee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Omaha), leading experts in tribal broadband policy, will speak on a panel about current opportunities in the field.
Indigenous Community Launches First Community Broadband Network in Hawai'i - Community Broadband Bits Podcast 385
For the third year, the Internet Society worked with locals to hold an annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit as a way to teach and share information. In November, participants collaborated to deploy a fixed wireless community broadband network in a small village in Hawai'i and Christopher had the chance to participate.
While he was there, he interviewed Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairman's Association, and Brandon Makaawaawa, Deputy Head of State for Nation of Hawai‘i. Christopher, Matt, and Brandon discuss the summit and the need for connectivity in Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo, the village where summit participants worked with local indigenous folks to build the network in just a few days.
Brandon talked about some of the obstacles that have faced the people of the Nation of Hawai'i and how those obstacles have put them on the wrong side of the digital divide. Without sovereign nation status, like many other indigenous people in the U.S., Brandon's people don't have access to funding. When the opportunity to work with the Internet Society to establish a community network arose, the village jumped at the chance as a way to learn and teach others in Hawai'i.
Learn more about the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit here. Be sure to check out the information on past Summits in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Don't miss Brandon's essay on the importance of the project to Pu‘uhonua o Waimānalo here.
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Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), at least 35 percent of tribal residents do not have access to fixed broadband. In comparison, only 7.7 percent of all U.S. residents lack access to fixed broadband, defined as minimum speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
The report, prepared at the request of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, finds that the FCC’s broadband data is inadequate and inaccurate. As a result, the data overstate sbroadband availability nationwide, particularly in tribal areas. Additionally, the report notes that the FCC fails to engage tribes in the data collection process.
Bad data isn’t just a bureaucratic recordkeeping problem. Tribal communities can miss out on federal funding to improve connectivity in unserved and underserved areas if the FCC data shows that they already have access to broadband.
Reporting Methodology Overstates Access
For the most part, the FCC gets its information on fixed broadband availability through Form 477. Internet service providers (ISPs) submit the form twice a year, listing the census blocks they serve and the highest speeds they advertise.
This data collection methodology inherently exaggerates Internet access. Since ISPs report coverage by census block, an entire block is considered served even if the provider offers, or could offer, access to only one home.
Many tribal lands are located in rural areas, the report notes, where large census blocks result in vast overstatements of broadband availability. Census blocks can also contain both tribal and non-tribal lands, further obscuring the extent to which tribal communities lack connectivity.
Tribal governments face unique problems when connecting their communities, but the need is great.
In this episode of Community Connections, Christopher Mitchell speaks with Matt Rantanen, Director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association (SCTCA) and Director of the Tribal Digital Village (TDV) Initiative. Mitchell and Rantanen talk about the special challenges of deploying fiber on tribal lands.