Opinion | Technology

Dave Lundgren: BIA must take a closer look at rights-of-way

Cover page for 2007 report to Congress on rights-of-way in Indian Country

Attorney Dave Lundgren calls on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to end 'piggy-backing' by utility companies on Indian Country rights-of-way:
The Bureau of Land Management recently announced that it was undertaking an agency-wide review of railroad rights of way to determine whether utilities—mostly telecommunication companies with fiber optic lines—are unlawfully piggy-backing on railroad lines without federal approval. It’s about time.

This announcement is the result of mounting federal litigation and congressional pressure that led to a revised legal position within the Department of the Interior that piggy-backing without compensation violates the Constitution. This same scrutiny must now be applied to all BIA rights of way, and the unlawful practice of piggy-backing on Indian lands must end.

For far too long Tribes have endured the empty promises that fiber optics would bring high-speed Internet to their communities, for example, only to find that, without any compensation or federal approval, their permanent homelands were again exploited. This time it was by piggy-backing lines of communication companies that passed right through their lands without delivering any services to their communities. It may be time to reverse that practice and force those utilities to deliver services as compensation for historical trespass.

Get the Story:
Dave Lundgren: How to Force the Telecoms to Deliver Fiber-Optic to Reservations (Indian Country Today 9/21)

Federal Register Notices:
Rights-of-Way on Indian Land (August 13, 2014)
Rights-of-Way on Indian Land (June 17, 2014)

Join the Conversation