Tag: "tribal"

Posted September 6, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

Welcome to another installment of In Our View, where from time to time, we use this space to share our thoughts on recent events playing out across the digital landscape and take the opportunity to draw attention to important but neglected broadband-related issues.

As its ongoing work to revamp the agency’s notoriously inaccurate broadband coverage maps continues, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced last week the opening of a window for states, local and Tribal governments, service providers, and other entities to challenge the service data submitted by providers over the summer.

At the end of June, as FCC chairwoman Jessica Ronsenworcel noted, the FCC “opened the first ever window to collect information from broadband providers in every state and territory about precisely where they provide broadband services.” 

The key word here is “precisely” because the truth is: no one really knows precisely where broadband is, or is not, available. And with tens of billions of dollars in federal funding being spent to deploy high-speed Internet infrastructure, accurate mapping data is essential for targeting where those funds would be best allocated in each state and U.S. territory.

Historically, the FCC relied on self-reported submissions of Internet service providers (ISPs) for information on which locations they serve and what speeds are available at those addresses. However, in practice, that meant the FCC maps could declare an entire census block to be “served” by a broadband provider if that provider claimed the ability to serve just one home in the entire block; thereby overcounting how many households have access to broadband.

The Broadband DATA Act was passed to fix that glaring problem by requiring the FCC to use a more refined methodology to verify if the data submitted by ISPs is accurate.

To that end, the FCC will now rely on something called the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (BSLF), which will combine a...

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Posted August 24, 2022 by Emma Gautier

The Tlingit and Haida Tribes will leverage $15 million in Rescue Plan funding to bring LTE-based 100 Mbps symmetrical wireless connectivity to 10,000 unserved residents in and around the city of Wrangell, located on Wrangell Island in southeast Alaska. The Internet Service Provider in charge of the buildout is the newly-launched, tribally-owned ISP Tidal Networks. The project is a pilot the tribes plan to expand to all residents of the island, and eventually to other communities in the region.  

The pilot is made possible by Tlingit and Haida’s successful participation in the FCC’s Rural Tribal Priority Window, which allowed tribes to claim space on the 2.5 gigahertz spectrum band. Back in 2019, Tlingit and Haida partnered with southeast Alaska village tribes to gain access to the spectrum, and worked throughout 2021 to “discuss [Tlingit and Haida’s] broadband initiative and opportunities to partner for the broadband project.” 

Utilizing Spectrum to Make Connectivity Feasible

Alaskan tribes have been particularly active participants of the Rural Tribal Priority Window, which was first announced by the FCC in early December 2019 and closed on September 2, 2020. Over one third of the nearly 400 tribes that applied were located in Alaska. The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe, the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, the Hydaburg Cooperative Association, and the Organized Village of Saxman also successfully gained access. To hold the spectrum license, tribes were originally required to provide service to 80 percent of residents no later than two years after obtaining it, and 100 percent of residents within five years. Since then, the FCC has doubled the requirement window to four and eight years, respectively. 

Tlingit and Haida secured spectrum in several communities in the southeastern part of the state, which has allowed the tribes to design a plan for broadband deployment that could be fully covered by the $15 million in Rescue...

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Posted August 11, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

The application deadline for the Capital Projects Fund, which will direct $100 million in federal funding to Tribal governments to build broadband infrastructure, has been extended to August 15th, 2022. It's a relateively simple application, offering $167,000 in grant funds to each Tribal government.

The fund explicitly emphasizes capital outlay for new infrastructure projects. From the Department of Treasury, uses include:

Capital assets designed to directly enable work, education, and health monitoring.

Project[s] designed to address a critical need that resulted from or was made apparent or exacerbated by the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Project[s] designed to address a critical need of the community to be served by it.

Examples of projects provided by the Treasury include:

Purchasing digital connectivity devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, or tablets, to facilitate internet access

Purchasing digital connectivity technologies, such as public Wi-Fi, to facilitate internet access

Supplementing another federal government broadband program (e.g., Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, NTIA Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, or other funds) that meet minimum service standards provided by the Capital Projects Fund Guidance

Installing or enhancing broadband infrastructure to serve communities by meeting minimum service standards provided by the Capital Projects Fund Guidance

Constructing or improving buildings, such as multi-purpose community centers, that are designed to jointly enable work, education, and health monitoring

It's worth pointing out, via the Treasury guidance page, that "as of April 4, 2022, applicants are required to provide a Universal Entity ID (UEID) number when applying for CPF funds, and will no longer need to provide a DUNS number." More instructions here.

Additional resources:

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Posted May 10, 2022 by Sean Gonsalves

An effort to foster digital sovereignty and support tribal citizens to build and operate their own broadband networks in Indian Country is gaining momentum.

Responding to the challenges of COVID and the opportunities created by the federal attention and investment into tribal broadband, our own Christopher Mitchell, Director of the Community Broadband Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, prominent Tribal broadband advocate and 20-year veteran behind the Tribal Digital Village, Matt Rantanen - along with a loose coalition of public interest tech people - have organized a series of trainings to help tribes tackle building and running networks for themselves. 

These Tribal Broadband Bootcamps build on the work of Internet Society's North American chapter at an Indigenous Connectivity Summit. The first Bootcamp, held in the summer of 2021, brought together nearly two dozen tribal citizens from five indigenous nations who gathered in southern California to learn how to build and operate wireless networks using their FCC license for 2.5 GHz spectrum access. The second bootcamp, held in March 2022, focused both on wireless and fiber networks. The third bootcamp, slated for next week, will be the first on the sovereign territory of the Yurok Nation in northern California.

Tribal Connectivity Front and Center

Each bootcamp is a 3-day intensive learning experience that invites tribal citizens to come together with experienced network architects, managers, and policy experts to walk participants through what it takes to build a local broadband network, how to operate as Internet Service Providers, and handle the associated technical challenges.

While many rural areas outside of Indian Country lack decent access to broadband, the lack of high-speed Internet connectivity on Tribal reservations is particularly acute.

For decades, Tribes have been overlooked, ignored, and defrauded by telecommunications companies who, for the most part, have only sought to extract...

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Posted March 18, 2022 by Karl Bode

Buoyed by an explosion in new grants and the recent elimination of state restrictions on community broadband deployments, Washington State is awash in freshly-funded local broadband proposals that should go a long way toward shoring up affordable Internet access across the Pacific Northwest. 

In addition to Covid relief and various state grants, thirteen Washington State counties, ports and Tribal associations recently received $145 million in Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration grants aimed at boosting Internet access and affordability statewide. It’s the first tranche of $260 million planned for new infrastructure, and particularly exciting because it looks like nearly all of the funds went to community-led endeavors, with many of the newly built networks operated by local governments. Some projects will result in partnerships with locally rooted providers.

“Infrastructure is the foundation for digital equity,” Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown said of the funding. “Washington state’s goal is to ensure all of our residents have access to affordable high-speed internet, as well as the devices, skills and confidence needed to connect with critical resources.”

State leaders say they received more than $413 million-worth of requests for 36 different projects, and have shared both a list and a map of all approved grants online. 

Essential Aid for Existing Projects

The funds will be a welcome boon for many Washington State Tribal regions, including the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, which won $4.1 million to help expand fiber access along Highway 155 between Nespelem and Omak, Washington—as well as a project recently profiled by ILSR designed to provide...

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Posted March 15, 2022 by Ry Marcattilio

Two years after launching a community-based model to help residents overcome the digital skills challenges that keep so many offline, the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) announced in February 2022 that it has received a $10 million grant from Alphabet subsidiary Google to dramatically expand the impact of its Digital Navigator Corps model across the country. The money will allow NDIA to take the Corps nationwide to 18 new rural communities (including Tribal sites), helping thousands of people overcome adoption barriers with the help of local experts. 

Filling a Need at the Onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic

In August of 2020, NDIA first announced the launch of its new venture - the Digital Navigator initiative - to directly reach the many households across the United States that have access to wireline infrastructure but lack the knowledge, skills, trust, or comfort to turn that possibility into an affordable connection. The goal was to help people “get connected with affordable home Internet [access], find affordable computing devices, and learn basic digital skills,” and was borne directly out of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic the previous spring.

The Salt Lake Public Library and Rural LISC were pilot partners, but NDIA has since worked with more than 20 organizations and communities over the last two years in addition to releasing a cornucopia of resources for cities and anchor institutions that to adapt and use as they see fit, in places as wide ranging as Austin, Cleveland, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, Portland, Providence, and Seattle. All of this work has led to refinement of the Digital Navigator model while also helping thousands get and stay online. 

The grant will allow NDIA to expand its reach manyfold, launching a cohesive Navigator Corps across 18 new rural communities, as well as further refine the model...

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Posted February 16, 2022 by Karl Bode

Last year, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington State were one of 327 Native Nations to receive wireless spectrum as part of the FCC’s Rural Tribal Window program. Since then, tribal leaders have put that spectrum to use by offering free wireless services that have proven to be a lifesaver during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Rural Tribal Window program offered tribal access to one 49.5 megahertz channel, one 50.5 megahertz channel, and one 17.5 megahertz channel in the 2.5 Ghz band. Tribal applicants could apply for one, two, or all three of the channels, depending on availability.

Building Community Capacity

The Colville tribes say the spectrum allowed them to bring connectivity to 80 percent of the reservation in two phases. The already-completed Phase One brought access to the communities near Keller, Washington, while Phase Two will bring access to the remaining communities by 2026. 

“COVID was a shock to everyone, and it became obvious as time went on that there were a lot of kids who had no access to the Internet or devices to connect with,”  Andrew Joseph Jr., Chairman of the Colville Tribal Council, told ILSR. “With school going to virtual learning, and the importance of the Internet generally in this day and age, it was necessary to ensure that something be done to make the Internet accessible.”

In addition to the wireless network plan, the tribes are also stringing fiber along Highway 155 between Nespelem and Omak, Washington. Cumulatively, the projects hope to finally bring access to long-neglected areas, many of which aren’t particularly remote yet have been historically neglected by regional monopolies. 

“There are temporary networks in all four districts now,” Joseph said of the project’s progress. “There is not a hard count of all connections. The Tribes have grant applications pending to help fund the next step in the project plan, which includes the need to bring Internet access to more and remote areas, as well as laying down the building blocks for additional opportunities in the future.”

Searching for Permanent Solutions

Like many Native Nations, the Colville tribes are frustrated by the federal government’s long-standing tradition of throwing billions of dollars at regional...

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Posted November 16, 2021 by Maren Machles

Back in July, with the support of the Internet Society and a crew of community broadband advocates interested in increasing digital sovereignty across Indian Country, five tribes participated in the first ever Tribal Broadband Bootcamp

The Yurok Tribe (northern California), Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria (northern California), Hoopa Valley Tribe (northern California), Pueblo of Laguna (New Mexico), and Nation of Hawaii have all applied for and received a 2.5 GHz license to build a community network for their tribes. 

In this video, Jessica Engle, IT Director for the Yurok Tribe speaks in more detail about the connectivity challenges her community has faced historically, and how she is returning home from the bootcamp ready to put her newfound knowledge to work. 

“When you bring high-speed Internet, that’s when development happens and opportunity happens. So, you know, making sure that (tribal) council and everyone’s aware this is going to cost money, and it probably won’t have a huge return on investment directly. But there are a million different indirect benefits of bringing the access,” Engle says in the video. 

Currently, the standard connection for residents is 1 Megabits per second (Mbps) download. The premium is 5 Mbps.

Both her and Linnea Jackson, General Manager for Hoopa Valley PUD stress the importance of tribes in their region being able to build and operate their own networks. 

“You do have the ability to provide service for your own people,” said Linnae Jackson, General Manager of the Hoopa Valley PUD. 

Watch Jessica Engle speak further with Chris Mitchell, Travis Carter and Matthew Rantanen on Episode 17 of Connect This!

Learn more about how to build LTE networks with our four-part educational video series

Posted November 12, 2021 by Maren Machles

Over the next few years, we will see an upward trend of fiber infrastructure being built (RDOF, privately announced investment from monopoly providers, NTIA $10 billion broadband infrastructure program, and now, the passing of the infrastructure bill).  We will need, as a country, more fiber technicians to do this work, but there is a lack of fiber training programs.

To meet this need and in response to dual dilemma of an ever present need for affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband, and the number of citizens that have been dislocated or laid off due to the pandemic, the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology has partnered with Cherokee Nation Career Services (CNCS) and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program to create a fiber technician training program. 

As part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Reintegration Program, the first nine participants graduated from the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Fiber Optic Technician program on Sept. 10.

The fiber optic technician training program takes place in person over the course of eight weeks followed by a four-week internship. According to the RIP website the course covers pole climbing and fiber splicing. OSHA 10 and CPR certification are also included.

“This is a significant program for OSUIT to be involved with,” Na-komas Blackford, Workforce Training Coordinator at OSUIT, said in a press release on OSUIT’s website. “The broadband industry is growing and expected to continue growing in Oklahoma. OSUIT specializes in high-demand training, and this is one area we did not want to miss out on.”

Training for Success

The Muscogee program came after leaders heard about the success CNCS had when it started in the fall of 2020 and already has several participants working in the field. 

“[CNCS’ training program] currently has an employment placement rate of 100%,” Blackford said in OSUIT’s June press release. “The average Fiber Technician salary in the United States typically falls between $46,400 and $59,380, although it does change with each employer. We have seen several of our students that complete the program on track and make a significantly higher first-year salary than what is reflected in the top of...

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Posted October 12, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio

With support from the Internet Society, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has produced a video series to help tribes meet the requirements set by the FCC in getting their 2.5GHz networks up and running. Featuring participants from this summer's inaugural Tribal Wireless Bootcamp (including Spencer Sevilla and Deb Simpier), the series offers an introduction to key terms before walking viewers through the necessary steps from inception to connecting end users to a new network.

Christopher wrote a retrospective of the event at the end of September, so head there if you're curious about how it all came together, the lessons learned, and more about the wonderful people who took part in the effort.

The educational series is split into four parts: 1) Why LTE? 2) An Intro to EPC 3) Setting up the eNodeB, and 4) Configuring SIM Cards and Adding Users. 

Watch the videos below, or view the full playlist here.

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