Interior Holds Landmark National Tribal Broadband Summit

Last edited 09/24/2019

Date: September 24, 2019

WASHINGTON — As part of the Trump Administration's effort to facilitate broadband development in rural America and Indian Country, the U.S. Department of the Interior (Interior), in collaboration with the Department of Education and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, held a two-day National Tribal Broadband Summit on September 23 and 24, 2019, in Washington, D.C. 

Over the two day summit, Tribal leaders, representatives of Tribal organizations, representatives of schools and school districts serving under-connected Native students, Tribal libraries, museums, and cultural centers, private sector, and federal program managers and policymakers participated in 30 panel discussions and heard from over 80 speakers. These discussions focused on laying a foundation for building capacity among Tribal communities to support broadband deployment and adoption, and identify new opportunities for private sector investment in broadband.

“Managing more than 20 percent of the nation’s lands, the Department of the Interior plays a major role in the permitting and deployment of broadband to the rural and tribal communities,” said U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. “Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department is taking major strides toward increasing economic opportunities in Indian Country and Alaska Native villages.”

"The Trump Administration is focused on painting a more inclusive picture of economic strength and job creation in the United States," said U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Chief of Staff exercising the authority of Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor. "As high speed connectivity reaches rural communities, including American Indians and Alaska Natives, it empowers individuals to access the global marketplace, use online educational tools, and prepare the next generation for an increasingly tech-focused job market."

“For too long, the status quo has hamstrung our Native communities from accessing global markets, engaging in e-commerce or providing quality health care and education to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over the past two days Native American leadership, federal officials, industry leaders and private sector partners have engaged in discussions that I’m confident will materialize into expanded broadband capacity and investment in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. I am thankful for everyone who traveled and participated in the solution based dialogue at our Tribal Broadband Summit,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs,  Department of the Interior Tara Katuk MacLean Sweeney

“It’s clear that we live in a constantly iterating digital world. That reality presents exciting opportunities for all of us, especially our students,” said U.S. Secretary of Department of Education, Betsy DeVos. “Broadband access opens new paths of learning and unlimited opportunity for each of them. Today, broadband access isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity.

"Across America, Tribal libraries, museums, cultural centers, and community organizations serve as stewards of the unique knowledge, traditions, skills, and languages of the people they serve every day. They serve as critical nodes within learning and cultural networks that support digital inclusion and infrastructure," said Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. "Through their essential activities they help ensure access for all members of their communities and, in doing so, contribute to wellbeing. We must continue working together to enhance connectivity for Tribal nations and build upon digital infrastructure to achieve our shared goal of strengthening Native American communities now and for the future." 

 “The National Tribal Broadband Summit is a testament to the Trump Administration’s commitment to Indian Country and rural America. Connectivity enables tribal leaders to grow their economy, improve government services, advance skills training, and nurture cultural preservation and learning. The Administration is excited to continue this positive momentum in concert with our tribal and industry stakeholders,” said Deputy Assistant to the President and  Director, White House Intergovernmental Affairs, Doug Hoelscher.

This landmark summit is another demonstration of the Trump Administration’s commitment to advance shared priorities with Tribal governments and Tribal leaders.  

Currently, broadband access in other rural parts of the country outpaces development on rural tribal lands. A large proportion of tribal areas are located on rough terrain in rural locations. Like most rural locations, populations are sparser than in urban areas. These factors drive up the costs for businesses to serve tribal areas, creating a barrier to broadband deployment on tribal lands. Rural broadband deployment is achievable - 73.3% of rural non-tribal locations have at least one broadband provider. However, only 46.6% of rural tribal locations have coverage

The Interior's initiative comes in response to a January 8, 2018, Presidential Memorandum  entitled Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of the Interior. The memorandum directed the Interior to develop a plan to support rural broadband development and to identify those assets necessary for both deployment and adoption of these services.


Last July, the Department of the Interior submitted a report on rural broadband to the White House,  in response to the EO 13821, Streamlining and Expediting Requests to Locate Broadband Facilities in Rural America, and a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of the Interior issued on January 8, 2018, Supporting Broadband Tower Facilities in Rural America on Federal Properties Managed by the Department of Interior. The Summit is a continuation of these overall broadband efforts with a specific focus on Indian Country.


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