Heinrich, Luján, Leger Fernández, Colleagues Urge FCC To Advance Broadband And Spectrum Access For Native Communities

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) joined a bicameral group of lawmakers in a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel urging the FCC to consider more ways to advance Native communities’ access to and ownership of spectrum over their lands.
It was recently estimated that nearly a third of Tribal lands in the United States lacked internet access. Over 1.5 million people living on Tribal lands lack access to broadband services. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this disparity, limiting access to telemedicine, virtual and remote learning, and public safety programs, among other services.
“We ask that you continue to support the economic development of Tribal Nations and Native communities by working to advance their spectrum access and ownership,” wrote the lawmakers. “Advancing Native spectrum access and ownership is the best way for the FCC to work toward fulfilling the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations.”
In the letter, the lawmakers recognize the Commission’s previous investments and commitments to advancing Tribal broadband and the Chairwoman herself has spoken to the necessity of bridging the digital divide that disadvantages many Tribal communities. Still, the lawmakers note that while “these steps are all important and commendable,” more can be done to facilitate economic development in these communities.
“The need is clear,” concluded the lawmakers. “So is the solution: enhance Tribal self-sufficiency and self-governance by facilitating Tribal spectrum access and ownership.”
The letter is led by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Kaiali?i Kahele (D-Hawai’i) and signed by U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai’i), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and U.S. Representative Ed Case (D-Hawai’i).