FCC: Work Remains to Close Tribal Lands Digital Divide

A just-released FCC report to Congress finds that while there has been progress in deploying broadband on tribal lands, more work needs to be done, particularly in the rural areas that are the FCC's focus for non-tribal lands as well. The FCC has pledged to open a proceeding "in the near" term to address that "challenge."

That is according to the Report on Broadband Deployment in Indian Country to the House and Senate Commerce Committees per the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services (RAY BAUMS) Act of 2018, the FCC reauthorization legislation that included a number of FCC reports to Congress.

"[W]hile deployment to Tribal lands has increased in recent years, additional work remains to increase deployment to the certain Tribal areas and reach our goal of closing the digital divide for all Americans," the FCC told Congress.

The report showed that while 92% of urban Tribal lands have access to fixed terrestrial service of at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, just six percentage points lower than non-Tribal urban areas, the FCC's high-speed broadband target, just 46.6% of rural Tribal lands have similar access, a 27-point gap.

The FCC told Congress that among the challenges to getting broadband to Tribal lands are "rugged terrain, complex permitting processes governing access to Tribal lands, jurisdictional issues involving states and sovereign Tribal governments, lack of the necessary infrastructure, and a predominance of residential, rather than business, customers."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.