The National Tribal Broadband Summit

The U.S. Department of Interior is hosting the second annual National Tribal Broadband Summit. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology is excited to participate in this summit along with other officials from the Department of Education, and a variety of other agencies. This summit is a timely and important conversation. Internet and broadband access for students and teachers continues to become an increasingly important success factor as schools integrate technology in various ways. Access is even more relevant during the COVID-19 national emergency and for remote learners with limited access to broadband.

To help you to understand the objectives of the summit, we provide more information directly from the Department of Interior. Please read the experts from the 2020 National Tribal Broadband Summit Webpage:

Importance of this Summit

Broadband access is more important than ever. American Indians and Alaska Natives across the country have seen their lives disrupted by the coronavirus epidemic, with schools closing, many offices moving to telework, and countless other businesses and services prioritizing online options. As communities reopen, many sectors will be forever changed by this experience. Reliable, affordable broadband service is critical to the health and economic wellbeing of tribal communities.

Currently, broadband access in other rural parts of the country outpaces development on rural tribal lands. A large proportion of tribal areas are located on rough terrain in rural locations. Like most rural locations, populations are sparser than in urban areas. These factors drive up the costs for businesses to serve tribal areas, creating a barrier to broadband deployment on tribal lands. Rural broadband deployment is achievable — 77.7% of rural non-tribal locations have at least one broadband provider. However, deployment on tribal lands has consistently lagged behind non-tribal areas with only 72.3% of tribal lands (urban and rural) having access to broadband services.

After this week-long summit, participants will leave with the tools to bridge the connectivity gap in Indian Country, unlocking the opportunities that broadband access can provide.

Virtual National Tribal Broadband Summit: Creative Connections

The National Tribal Broadband Summit is a unique opportunity for Tribal Leaders, representatives of Tribal organizations, representatives of schools and school districts serving under-connected Native students, tribal libraries and cultural programs, federal program managers, and policy-makers at multiple levels of government to come together and share their innovations in expanding broadband access and adoption for tribal communities.

On September 21–25, 2020, the Department of the Interior (DOI), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will showcase creative solutions to some of the biggest barriers to tribal broadband development. As part of the larger effort to close the digital divide in Indian Country, the second annual National Tribal Broadband Summit will connect community leaders with information and resources to identify opportunities for public and private sector solutions to close the connectivity gap in schools and libraries on tribal lands.

This summit will provide a platform for leaders across the broadband development ecosystem to share best practices, new ideas, and lessons learned from their real-world experience bringing high-speed internet to Native American homes and businesses. This year’s event will focus on:

Planning & Implementation Identifying needs, setting goals, creating strategies, developing a plan and leveraging data to maximize the short and long-term educational, cultural and economic benefits of connectivity. Identifying sources of Federal, private and other programs and funding sources and leveraging these and community assets to best address strategic goals and community needs. Building and leveraging partnerships with both public and private entities to support connectivity and maximize the positive impacts of broadband access.

Technical Solutions, Middle Mile, Connectivity Solutions Exploring the various connectivity options available and identifying possible solutions to bring broadband to your unique community. E.g., white space, new spectrum and how to use it best, middle mile networks.

Applications for Social, Cultural, & Economic Well-Being Leveraging technology to improve health care outcomes, enhance economic development, increase community engagement, and expand educational opportunity. Responding to the coronavirus pandemic through emergency broadband networks, developing new and expanded services such as telemedicine and virtual learning programs, protecting community members, and preparing for future shocks. Smart cities, smart agriculture etc.

Bringing New and Innovative Opportunities to Indian Country

Broadband access in many parts of Indian Country is complicated by the need for federal appraisals, rights-of-way permits, and obtaining favorable environmental impact assessments. The annual National Tribal Broadband Summit is part of DOI’s ongoing efforts to close the connectivity gap and builds on the work of the American Broadband Initiative. With DOI and BIA working internally to make broadband development in Indian Country less burdensome, the National Tribal Broadband Summit will bring the other critical components to achieving full broadband dispersion throughout Indian Country: new technologies and innovative partnership solutions.[1]

[1] https://www.doi.gov/tribalbroadband

The Office of Educational Technology (OET) provides leadership for maximizing technology's contribution to improving education at all levels.