NCAI Calls on the FCC to Honor its Trust Responsibility to Tribal Nations During Global Pandemic
WASHINGTON, D.C. | Despite widespread requests from tribal nations, intertribal organizations, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Congress, various corporations, and national broadband advocates to extend the 2.5 GHz tribal priority filing window by 180 days, earlier today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced only a 30-day extension of the 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window (TPW) to September 2, 2020.
The FCC argues that “[a]n extension would delay the ability of those Tribes that have filed to receive licenses to provide badly needed broadband service to their communities.”
However, the FCC record provides no support for this assertion, which only serves to create needless and harmful division between tribal nations. As set forth in the National Congress of American Indians’ Motion to Stay, tribal nations that have applied for the TPW would not be harmed by an extension because the FCC has granted Special Temporary Authority to several tribal nations to begin operating in the 2.5 GHz band,and can do so for others.
The TPW is one of the few inexpensive solutions to overcoming the numerous barriers that have prevented better connection to tribal areas, as well as preparing them for future high-speed connections. A failure to recognize the effect of COVID-19 on the very entities the FCC seeks to help with the TPW will affect access to basic healthcare and education across Indian Country. Significant additional time for tribal nations to file for licenses during this window is necessary and critical.
The FCC, at a minimum, must provide the same 180-day extension to tribal nations that it gave to the cable industry due to COVID-19.
Indian Health Service and Center for Disease Control data document the devastating impacts of COVID-19 across Indian Country.
The FCC must uphold its trust responsibility to Indian Country, especially during this unique time of need. Failure to do so is unacceptable. NCAI will continue to advocate for an extension of the TPW – to enable all tribal nations the ability to access this critical resource – and calls upon Congress to pass legislation to ensure Indian Country has access to spectrum on tribal lands.
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About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org