Udall Leads Committee Passage of Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act
Udall-sponsored bill would accelerate deployment of broadband services to Native communities
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, joined committee chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) to convene a business meeting. Udall’s S.3264, the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act passed the committee, a bill to improve the deployment of broadband in Indian Country by establishing and strengthening broadband activities at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to better address Tribal needs.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shatter more records – and states, cities and Tribal governments tighten restrictions to control further spread of the virus – reliable and affordable access to broadband in Indian Country is nothing short of critical,” said Udall in his opening statement. “Accelerating the deployment of broadband infrastructure and resources would go a long way toward helping Native communities access much-needed services during the pandemic – like telehealth and distance learning – while also investing in future economic development, job opportunities, and public health and safety.”
At the business meeting, Udall introduced an amendment that makes three important revisions to S.3264. Specifically, the amendment:
- Empowers Tribal government to administer their own rights-of-way for the purposes of constructing, maintaining, and facilitating the deployment of broadband;
- Requires the FCC to open a new 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window for at least 180 days to provide additional time for Tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations to apply for unassigned spectrum licenses over their lands; and
- Expands eligibility for the FCC’s E-rate program, which provides essential funding to schools and libraries to deploy broadband, to include Tribal libraries, Tribal library consortiums, and Tribal government buildings.
The bill, including Udall’s amendment, passed the committee by voice vote. The Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act will now move to the Senate floor for consideration.
A section-by-section analysis of S.3264, with the amendment’s italicized additions, can be found HERE.
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