President Biden signed a bill providing affordable, reliable high-speed internet infrastructure to tribal lands throughout the United States.
Internet For All
As part of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed in 2023, the “Internet For All” initiative aims to connect everyone in America to high-speed internet by 2030. The total value of the grant-based program is $65 billion.
Included with the Internet For All carve out is the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) which enables affordable high-speed internet service at a discount for communities that are underserved.
How Does This Specifically Impact Tribal Lands
Tribal Lands have infrastructure challenges at a higher rate than the rest of the United States, even other areas of rural America. The bill is part of a broader deployment strategy.
“The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today it has awarded 28 grants totaling $74,424,986.73 to 28 Tribal entities as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP).
With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, these new grants bring the total of the program to more than $1.86 billion awarded to 226 Tribal entities. Record investments in high-speed Internet deployment are a key part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.”Internet For All
It’s more than just connectivity. According to Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, it will also create jobs. Investment in new high-speed internet access infrastructure will add workers both inside and outside of tribal lands.
Why Is It Important?
Tribal Lands face distinct challenges that rural peers do not. One-third of all residents are living in poverty. The median income is $23,000/year compared to more than $67,000/year for the rest of the United States. Access to the internet offers educational opportunities, but more importantly, work opportunities:
Beth Redbird, a fellow for the Institute of Policy Research clarified, ““The payoff to education is not nearly as high as the payoff to jobs,” she said. “The idea that we could reduce poverty for the Indian-only population by nearly 20% with employment is astounding.”Northwestern
Those jobs come in a few forms in relation to Internet For All efforts. The first is the initial support roles for construction jobs as infrastructure and equipment are added. These are skilled positions with application outside of installation in the relatively high-paying technical construction field.
Another job that becomes available is local tech support. This, too, is a higher-paying job. It allows for growth within the industry both on and off of Tribal Lands, and the ability to expand and take on customers in nearby communities.
Lastly, remote positions open up employment opportunities from around the world that were unavailable previously. Even at $15/hour, annual earnings cross $30,000, a representative 30% increase over tribal land median income.
The time to get involved in building the future for Tribal Lands is right now. Grants have never been more readily available and at such a high financial support level. Tribal communities face unique challenges that require careful planning and specific execution.
As digital infrastructure is put in place, tribal residents will be given access to more information, more resources, and more opportunities. As such, growth in those areas will advance as well. Still higher paying jobs, and employment that is more readily available will help transform these communities.
While the first step is in action now, the next steps of implementing the new technology, embedding it into the educational process, and advancement in the workplace will help these powerful communities accelerate their growth in the digital world.
Due to unique tax structures, data farms for huge corporations that currently occupy rural America could find a new home in tribal areas. Investment from the tech industry will create even more opportunities to increase the median wage, improve education, and provide a path for Native Americans that they did not before have easy access to. Residents will benefit from the opportunities of the rest of America while retaining the opportunity to stay within the communities that they love, supporting family, and cherished friends. It’s the ability to participate in a way closed off for many at this stage.
The incredibly large Infrastructure bill, specifically, Internet For All, can transform Tribal communities in a way that has never been available before, without leaving the land they love.