The Impact of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law on Tribal Broadband Connectivity

On November 27, 2023, KCPullen@doc.gov shared a heartwarming story about how the Biden Administration’s commitment to closing the digital divide in Native communities is changing lives. This story highlights the impact of the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) signed by President Biden in 2021, which allocated over $65 billion to bring affordable, high-speed internet to every American. This funding also included an additional $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP), administered by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA).

The TBCP aims to improve connectivity on Tribal lands, including for citizens like Robyn Johnson, a teacher and member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Before the TBCP grant, Robyn struggled to afford fast and reliable internet service, which hindered her children’s ability to attend online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the grant, her family was able to access faster and more reliable internet, allowing them to work and learn without overloading the bandwidth.

Another success story is that of Gabriel Tahy, a student at Diné College, the first tribally controlled and accredited collegiate institution in the United States. Living in the middle of the Navajo Nation, surrounded by mesas that block cell phone reception and 5G service, Gabriel faced challenges in attending college due to the lack of high-speed internet. However, with funding from the Biden Administration’s Internet for All Initiative, Diné College was able to develop the Connect Navajo program, providing improved internet access, hardware, IT staff, and a hot spot for Gabriel to advance his education.

Thanks to the TBCP and other initiatives under the Biden Administration’s Internet for All Initiative, 226 Tribal entities have received over $1.86 billion in grants to support reliable, affordable high-speed internet networks, devices, and digital skills training on Tribal lands. In July, NTIA announced a second Notice of Funding Opportunity totaling nearly $1 billion, with applications due on January 23, 2024.

In a statement, Secretary Raimondo emphasized the Biden Administration’s commitment to closing the digital divide in all American communities, including Tribal communities. This commitment is evident in the continued efforts to provide reliable, affordable high-speed internet to Tribal communities across America through the BIL and other initiatives. As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, let us also recognize the significant progress made in connecting Indian Country and the continued efforts to bridge the digital divide for all Americans.  

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