WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) announced 15 Tribes and Pueblos across New Mexico will receive spectrum licenses through the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Tribal Priority Window to help connect communities and close the digital divide.
The licenses are granted through the FCC’s first-of-its-kind Rural Tribal Priority Window, which allows tribal communities to apply for the first set of spectrum licenses and access currently unlicensed spectrum for use on rural tribal land. Following a review of applications, 15 Tribes in New Mexico are now able to use a portion of the 2.5 GHz band to provide broadband and other advanced wireless services in their communities. The New Mexico Delegation fought to extend the Rural Tribal Priority Window given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on tribal communities, with the deadline ultimately extended by 30 days.
“Every Tribal community should have access to reliable broadband,” said Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “That’s why I have pushed for the FCC to expand priority windows for Tribes in the CARES Act, and extend the 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window for an additional 180 days, as a vital step forward to bridge the Tribal digital divide to connect schools, hospitals and businesses for economic growth. I introduced the Bridging the Tribal Digital Divide Act to mobilize resources to address this inequality, and I will continue to fight for the necessary broadband funding and resources so that all Native communities can get connected in the digital age.”
"An alarming percentage of rural tribal communities in New Mexico lack access to high-speed internet, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been showing the true impact of the disparities that Indian Country has been facing. Now more than ever, it is critical that these communities have access to broadband services so they can be connected to educational, health, and career-related resources," said Heinrich. "Earlier this year, I called on the FCC to extend the deadline for the Rural Tribal Priority Window, and I am glad to see their decision to do so has allowed these tribal communities to benefit. This announcement is a vital step forward for increasing internet access in Indian Country, and I will continue fighting for broadband access across our state."
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of broadband access to check on loved ones, receive critical public health information, promote economic opportunity, and ensure that students can learn. Until now, many Tribes and Pueblos in New Mexico have lacked access to this critical tool to help their communities through the public health crisis and beyond,” said Luján. “I’m pleased that New Mexico communities benefited from the extension of the Rural Tribal Priority Window and were awarded these spectrum licenses today. I’ll continue working alongside my colleagues in Congress to bridge the digital divide that Tribes and Pueblos face.”
“Our communities need access to broadband to ensure they have access to telehealth, education and work from home, but the FCC has failed to uphold the trust responsibility to Tribes by prohibiting them from freely accessing spectrum licenses over their lands and putting barriers in place to Tribes’ authority to manage their own resources resulting in a massive digital divide. It’s welcome news that Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations across New Mexico will have access to these licenses so Native communities will access to telehealth services, virtual classrooms, and online conferences – but we still must continue to push to protect Tribal sovereignty and Tribes’ right to manage broadband spectrum on their lands,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
“Tribal communities across New Mexico urgently need access to good, reliable internet. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to deepen the urban-rural divide, I’m pleased to see the FCC prioritize our rural and tribal areas and swiftly distribute licenses so that our tribal communities can provide the broadband needed to connect schools, families, hospitals, and businesses,” said Torres Small. “This announcement is an important step towards ensuring our tribal economies and communities remain viable in the digital age, I will continue to fight for the resources needed to build on this progress across New Mexico.”
The following Tribes and Pueblos in New Mexico are among the 154 nationwide that will receive exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of 2.5 GHz band spectrum to connect households, schools, businesses, and more:
- Fort Sill Apache
- Jicarilla Apache Nation Power Authority
- Mescalero Apache Tribe
- Ohkay Owingeh Tribal Council
- Pueblo de San Ildefonso
- Pueblo of Acoma
- Pueblo of Laguna
- Pueblo of Nambe
- Pueblo of Picuris
- Pueblo of Pojoaque
- Pueblo of Tesuque
- Pueblo of Zia
- Santa Clara Pueblo
- Taos Pueblo Utility Service
- Zuni Tribe