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Federal grants for improving broadband in Indigenous communities now accepting applications

By: - August 17, 2022 3:29 pm

Photo by Franck | Unsplash

Tribal nations can now apply for the 2022 National Tribal Broadband Grant Program to help them develop or extend broadband services within their communities. 

“Reliable, high-speed internet access in Tribal communities enables many opportunities for education, employment, entrepreneurship, and social connection,” Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said in a press release. “These elements are all critical to our goal of making sure that people have the opportunity to live safe, healthy, and fulfilling lives in their Tribal communities.”

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Newland announced Wednesday that the Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development is accepting applications for the program from federally recognized tribes throughout the U.S. Applications are due by October.

The last time the program accepted applications was the summer of 2020, and awards for the grant were announced in August 2020. Three tribal entities in Arizona were awarded grants: the Dilkon Chapter House on the Navajo Nation, the Hualapai Indian Tribe, and the Kayenta Township on the Navajo Nation. Dilkon and Hualapai were awarded $50,000 and Kayenta got $48,778.

The National Tribal Broadband Grant program is designated to support feasibility studies for the installation or expansion of high-speed internet within tribal communities, according to the federal register document. The feasibility studies funded through the program will help tribes make informed decisions about the development of broadband within their communities.

“The purpose of the National Tribal Broadband Grant Program is to improve the quality of life, spur economic development and commercial activity, create opportunities for self-employment, enhance educational resources and remote learning opportunities, and meet emergency and law enforcement needs by bringing broadband services to Native American communities that lack them,” the Department of Interior stated in a press release.

The awarded funding will be used to support tribes planning to install or expand broadband internet access. The broadband can be supplied through digital subscriber lines, cable, fiber optic, wireless, satellite or broadband over power lines.

The Office of Indian Economic Development aims to fund between 15 and 27 grants, ranging in value from $100,000 to $175,000. All federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, bands, villages, nations, or communities are eligible to apply for the grant program.

The grants will be for a two-year term, and only one application will be accepted from an eligible tribal entity. They can also be used to fund an assessment of a tribe’s current broadband services, if any, that are available to their community. For example, the tribe can conduct an engineering assessment of new or expanded broadband services or provide an estimate of the cost of building or expanding a broadband network.

After the applications are submitted, the proposals will be evaluated by a review committee with the Office of Indian Economic Development using four criteria: community impact, need, project location and authenticity. The final award selections will be approved by the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs and the Associate Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior.

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Shondiin Silversmith
Shondiin Silversmith

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues. Her digital, print and audio stories have been published by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, Navajo Times, The GroundTruth Project and PRX's "The World." Silversmith earned her master's degree in journalism and mass communication in Boston before moving back to Arizona to continue reporting stories on Indigenous communities. She is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and has made it a priority in her career to advocate, pitch and develop stories surrounding Indigenous communities in the newsrooms she works in.

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