Cantwell, Colleagues Call for a Speedy Connection for Tribes and Broadband

Letter Calls for FCC Action as Native Americans Miss Out on Broadband Benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter, joined by five fellow Senators, calling on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler to carry out a comprehensive set of broadband reforms for Tribal communities before the end of the year.

Access to high-quality broadband is accompanied by economic and quality-of-life benefits that ripple throughout communities. To a startling degree Indian Country is left out of these positive effects because they lack access. NINETY PERCENT of all Americans have access to broadband that meets FCC standards, but just 32% of those living on rural tribal land have access to the same technology.

The Senators ARE URGING the FCC undertake improvements to broadband access and infrastructure on Tribal land, as well as expanding high-quality, affordable mobile broadband. The Commission has pledged to move forward with such reforms, but it has neither set a timeline nor laid out the specific solutions it will take to address these problems.

“Closing the Digital Divide on Tribal Lands (including Alaska Native Villages and Native Hawaiian Homelands) remains one of the most important infrastructure challenges facing our nation,” the Senators wrote. “New mobile broadband technologies are improving virtually every aspect of our economy, including medical monitoring, assisting first responders with real-time video capabilities, and providing countless mobile applications to our citizens. Despite significant gains, broadband availability and adoption on Tribal Lands continues to lag behind non-Tribal Lands in the U.S. by a wide margin, especially in rural areas.”

The Senators also called for the Commission to improve the quality of its data for mobile wireless and mobile broadband availability, as well as properly target FCC Mobility Fund investments toward new and improved services.

The letter to Chairman Wheeler was also signed by Sens. Murray (D-WA), Udall (D-NM), Klobuchar (D-MN), Heinrich (D-NM), and Tester (D-MT).