On September 15, the FCC notified the Oglala Sioux Tribe and 156 other applicants that they qualified for license consideration after the agency’s Rural Tribal Window closed September 2. In announcing the granting of the licenses October 23, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called them “a major step forward in our efforts to close the digital divide on tribal lands.” Pai recognized that “few communities face the digital connectivity challenges faced by rural tribes.” He said he has “seen first-hand the connectivity difficulties facing Native Nations.” By prioritizing tribal control over access to the Educational Broadband Service range, “We are ensuring that tribes can quickly access spectrum to connect their schools, homes, hospitals, and businesses,” he said. The agency now is distributing the 2.5 GHz band licenses to tribal communities. To take advantage of the offer, licensees must put their shares of the spectrum to use.
The @FCC's issued the 1st set of 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses through the 1st-ever Rural Tribal Priority Window! From the Algaaciq Tribal Government of Alaska to the Zuni Tribe of New Mexico/Arizona, numerous Tribal entities now have prime airwaves to help close the #digitaldivide. pic.twitter.com/EtQk9BvuNC— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) October 23, 2020
Two years from now, licensees must submit evidence that they are providing service coverage to 50 percent of the population in their license area. This FCC stipulation means that 50 percent of the population in the service area must be able to access the service; it does not require a 50 percent adoption rate. Five years after the license is granted, licensees must show that they are providing service coverage to 80 percent of the population. If licensees lease their spectrum shares, then the service provided by lessees will be counted towards the buildout requirement. The license the Oglala Sioux Tribe obtained covers 2.7 million acres, one of the largest geographical areas of those granted. It stretches across the counties of Oglala Lakota, Bennett and Jackson, reaching to the original boundaries of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In tooling up for the licensure, Weston’s office surveyed the connectivity needs of the reservation and targeted 12 communities “that don’t have access to broad band.” They are Red Shirt Table, Batesland, Wakpamni Area, Hilse, Potato Creek, North Allen, Yellow Bear, American Horse Creek, North Manderson, Georgetown, Lakeside, and Gooseneck. “In these communities we’re kind of pressed for time because equipment will need to be purchased with CARES Act dollars,” Weston said. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to state and tribal governments is only applicable to expenses incurred since the pandemic outbreak March 1 through the end of December.
On tribal lands, only 65 percent of the population has access to broadband. Half of tribal rural households don’t even have access to a fixed wireless internet provider. @Tribal252 @muralnetwork#TribalBroadband #DigitalDivide #NativeSunNewsTodayhttps://t.co/nhdpET4q63— indianz.com (@indianz) September 24, 2020
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