JUNEAU, AK (November 17, 2022) – The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced an additional 18 grants have been awarded under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).
The Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) was awarded nearly $50M for broadband infrastructure development projects and is one of four Alaska tribal entities to receive a grant under the new round of funding.
The $980 million TBCP is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and provides grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entities to create affordable, reliable, high-speed internet. The overall goal of the program is to improve healthcare, workforce development, education, and housing in tribal communities by deploying broadband infrastructure, supporting digital inclusion to reduce the digital divide, and establishing affordable broadband programs.
Southeast Alaska is home to 33 communities and 20 tribal governments. These communities are spread out over 35,138 square miles of land and are largely remote with limited road access. This presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to broadband deployment and is largely why there are huge swaths of unserved territory. The region has some of the nation’s most costly broadband prices too. It is estimated that over 7% of Southeast Alaska’s population (4,800 residents or 1,100 households) have no internet and 8.9% (2,776) of households have an income below 150% of federal poverty level.
“If you care about advancing our region’s economy, supporting community sustainability, and ensuring our children have the educational opportunities they deserve, we all need to stand behind closing the digital divide in Southeast Alaska. Access to high-speed broadband is a necessity to everyday life and we cannot accept the disparity in access and affordability anymore,” shared President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson. “The internet, or lack thereof, has a direct impact on community growth and success. Tlingit & Haida is committed to ensuring our communities and people are not left behind. This funding will help us build out the broadband infrastructure needed to achieve that and provide access to affordable qualifying broadband services to over 20 communities in our region.”
Tlingit & Haida’s TBCP grant application was submitted under a consortium with seven partnering federally recognized tribal entities in Southeast Alaska – Chilkat Indian Village, Craig Tribal Association, Hydaburg Cooperative Association, Organized Village of Kasaan, Klawock Cooperative Association, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and Wrangell Cooperative Association. The grant application was also supported by SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sealaska, Southeast Conference, Haida Corporation, and several city chambers of commerce.
The grant award will be used for several projects through the Tribe’s broadband business enterprise, Tidal Network, that expand broadband deployment in the region and provide more affordable qualifying broadband services. The funds will leverage Tlingit & Haida’s and other consortium tribes’ 2.5 GHz license to provide access to a fixed wireless network of qualifying broadband services at or above Federal Communication Commission (FCC) broadband minimum to specific target groups such as unserved and impoverished households. Other wireless spectrum bands and low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites will also be used to provide service where a 2.5 GHz Educational Broadband Service license is not available.
“Access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband services for all households, as the 'broadband for all’ policy advanced by federal and state governments, must include all of our tribal communities no matter how rural or remote,” shared Tlingit & Haida Fourth Vice President Will Micklin, who has been actively working with the Tribe to secure broadband funding. “Broadband is essential infrastructure, and in my view, a human right, along with affordable and reliable energy, clean water, wastewater treatment, transportation, health care, housing, and law enforcement & public safety. Tlingit & Haida is best able to provide broadband services to our citizens, and we are now further along the road to doing so."
As part of the grant award, Tlingit & Haida will also create a voucher program with existing service providers to provide access to affordable qualifying broadband services to 100% of unserved households and discounted subscriber rates to household with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty annual income threshold.
NTIA received more than 280 TBCP grant applications during the application window which closed on September 1, 2021. In total, more than $380 million in TBCP funds have been awarded to 21 Alaska tribal governments or entities for broadband projects that fall under the categories of adoption and use, infrastructure deployment, and planning, feasibility and sustainability studies.