Published August 28, 2016
When it comes to internet access, Native American and Alaskan tribes are among the least connected in our country. An analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisers found that along with the rural South, portions of the Southwest, predominately home to Indian communities, are amongst the lowest connected regions.
In today’s connected world, it is crucial that the federal government promote internet connectivity across the nation. But the Federal Communications Commission is considering a regulation that would have the opposite effect.
The FCC proposal, which would reduce rates that providers of broadband services can charge, is aimed at stimulating competition. In reality, it would have the unintended consequence of driving away investment in broadband – especially in rural and tribal regions. This would only increase the digital divide between those with and without internet access.
We were heartened when President Obama, in the heart of Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, announced ConnectHome, his plan to connect thousands of people living in public housing to the internet. The President recognized that the U.S. has “a special obligation to make sure that tribal youth have every opportunity to achieve their potential not just for the benefit of themselves and their communities, but for our entire nation.”
“Today, we’re going to take another step to close the digital divide in America, and make sure everybody in America has access to high-speed broadband Internet,” Obama said.
Indian Country supports this goal and appreciates the work done by the President and administration thus far; however, the FCC’s proposal could undo all of the ground gained by decimating ongoing and future investment in broadband. It is for this exact reason that we recently joined other rural and agriculture organizations in sending a letter to the FCC requesting that they revisit this rule and reconsider its impact on rural communities. We urge the Commission to work with us and all of Indian Country to narrow, and not widen, the digital divide.
Ross Racine (Blackfeet) is executive director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council. In 2011, he was named a White House Champion of Change.
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