Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) in a bill to expand the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window. The Extending Broadband Tribal Priority Act of 2020 will allow Tribal Nations and Native Hawaiian organizations the time they need to apply for spectrum licenses for unassigned spectrum over their own lands—a critical step to expanding broadband access in their communities.
“Native communities have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. About one-third of Nevada’s Indian Country households don’t have stable or reliable internet access, creating barriers to critical online services like telemedicine, online education and basic communication between tribes. I’m proud to support the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act so that Nevada’s tribes can use this extra time to participate in this broadband opportunity, and I’ll continue to fight for resources that help Nevada’s Native communities thrive.”
“Far too many Native communities lack reliable internet access, shutting them out of a 21st-century economy and limiting their access to life-saving services. This crisis is even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FCC should have recognized this and extended its last Rural Tribal Priority Window by at least 180 days. But it didn’t, so Congresswoman Haaland and I are leading this bill to give Tribal Nations a real chance at increasing their internet access,” Senator Warren said.
“Every community needs access to life-saving telehealth services, education, unemployment benefits, but the FCC consistently denied and restricted Tribes from deploying reliable wireless broadband internet. Throughout the pandemic, the administration has left Tribal communities behind and this is yet another example of their indifference to their needs, which only makes the digital divide worse. Tribes can’t afford to wait any longer, so we’re introducing a bill that creates a new window for Tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations to apply for broadband spectrum, so that they have the ability to focus on combatting this virus and deploy wireless internet access that they desperately need,” said Congresswoman Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.
Since the beginning of April, the FCC has received numerous requests to extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window by no less than 180 days from the original deadline of August 3, 2020. The FCC refused to implement that sufficient extension, instead giving tribes a severely limited 30-day application period that expired on September 2, 2020, contrary to numerous requests by Tribes and bipartisan members of Congress.
Senator Cortez Masto has been a strong advocate for expanded broadband access for tribes throughout Nevada. She signed two letters sent to the FCC urging them to expedite broadband connectivity to Native communities and calling them out for shortchanging tribes on the tribal broadband application deadline. She also introduced the ACCESS BROADBAND Act to help foster the development and growth of broadband resources in underserved urban, rural and Native communities.