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NTIA, BIA Agree to Speed Broadband to Tribal Lands

Stephouse Networks
(Image credit: Stephouse Networks)

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have struck an agreement that streamlines permitting for high-speed internet on tribal lands.

The idea is to coordinate the balance between the need for environmental and historical preservation and the need for universal high-speed access under the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.

The agreement also streamlines the National Environmental Policy Act reviews for both NTIA, which oversees the bulk of broadband grant money, and BIA, which grants rights-of-way on protected lands.

The agreement was announced the same day that NTIA said it was adding $1 billion from the Infrastructure Act's tens of billions in broadband subsidies to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, boosting the program total to $1.98 billion.

NTIA is going to need it. The agency said it has received more than 300 applications for over $5 billion in funding requests. Even with the new infusion, that leaves NTIA $3 billion-plus short if all those funding requests were granted.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program provides funding for broadband deployment, digital diversity, workforce training, digital skills, telehealth, and distance learning. ■

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.