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NTIA shares new tool to help tribal leaders create unique broadband plans

Lansing, Michigan (June 2, 2022) - Earlier this month, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) shared a new tool that will help Native American tribes design broadband strategies to address the technology challenges facing tribal lands. The Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit is being released at a pivotal time, as the NTIA works to allocate approximately $2 billion in grants to expand broadband access and usage on tribal lands as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

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With more than 56 million acres of tribal lands across the country, each tribal territory will face unique challenges in implementing broadband strategies. Some may lack access to available broadband service, while other territories may be served by internet service providers (ISPs) but face other challenges such as cost or service reliability.  The Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit is a step-by-step guide designed to help tribal leaders take meaningful actions toward improving the broadband landscape across their lands.

The Toolkit starts by identifying ways that tribal leaders can assess their strengths and challenges. These could be skills, existing relationships, known funding sources, and other factors unique to the tribe or its geography that can impact the design or implementation of its broadband plan. From there, the Toolkit lays out seven steps a tribe can take to create a broadband plan:

  • Assembling a team
  • Determining priorities
  • Exploring existing data
  • Building relationships
  • Choosing the right solutions to the identified issues
  • Preparing a budget
  • Charting a path forward and developing a project plan¬†

Each step includes worksheets, interactive tools, and best practices that tribes can modify to develop their own unique broadband plans. Not every tribe will need all seven of these elements, and they can be used in any order. Since no one-size-fits-all framework fits every tribal community, this Toolkit is made to be flexible, yet instructive.

This information is coming at a crucial time. The NTIA will soon release its Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that will include the requirements under which it will disburse approximately $2 billion in grants through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP). These TBCP funds will be made available to tribal governments to deploy broadband on tribal lands, support telehealth and distance learning, make broadband more affordable to households, and support digital inclusion efforts. While the details of this grant are still in development, the NOFO is expected to be announced sometime this summer.

You can learn more about the Toolkit HERE. Connected Nation will also continue to track changes and announcements related to all aspects of the IIJA, including the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. You can learn about how to leverage the IIJA at our website HERE or follow us on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and INSTAGRAM to never miss an update about these and other funding opportunities.  

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About the Author: Chris McGovern is the Connected Nation Director of Research Development. Chris works with Connected Nation staff and external stakeholders to develop research deliverables and provide critical analysis. He uses qualitative and quantitative techniques to interpret data, formulate reports, and make substantiated recommendations based on research findings.