Window Opens for Tribes to Seek Licenses for Internet Access
Techlife News|February 8, 2020
The Federal Communications Commission opened a window for federally recognized tribes to apply for licenses that could help establish or expand internet access on their lands.

Tribes had pushed to be first in line for mid-band spectrum licenses that largely are unassigned across the western United States and once were reserved for educational institutions. The 2.5 Ghz-band of spectrum — channels of electromagnetic waves — are seen as key to expanding 5G access.

The FCC estimates that about one-third of people living on tribal lands don’t have access to high-speed internet, but others say the figure is twice as high.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told tribes gathered in Washington last month for a broadband workshop that the licenses could be a “gamechanger,” allowing tribes to consult online with specialists, work from home, job search, start online businesses or take classes online.

“I’m not speculating when I saw that this spectrum could deliver major benefits to rural tribal communities,” he said.

The tribal priority window closes Aug. 3.

Some organizations see limits to the licensing rules that they are challenging with the FCC.

Land designated for Native Hawaiians is included in the push to expand internet access to rural, tribal areas. But, Native Hawaiians can’t apply for the licenses because they’re not among the 574 federally recognized tribes.

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