Click here to watch video of Chairman Hoeven’s opening remarks.
WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today convened an oversight hearing to examine reports from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which address broadband internet and other telecommunications access issues on tribal lands.
“Access to broadband communications furthers economic development, educational achievement, and public health and safety,” Hoeven said. “As of December 2016, 35.4 percent of tribal residents lacked access to fixed broadband services, compared to 7.7 percent of the rest of the U.S. population. I look forward to exploring ways in which Congress may help close the digital divide in Indian Country, and ensure tribes have equal access to high-speed internet and other advanced telecommunications infrastructure.”
In a July 2016 letter, Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), John McCain (R-AZ), Steve Daines (R-MT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) requested three GAO reports on broadband access in Indian Country.
The first report, released September 7, 2018, is entitled, “Broadband Internet: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands.” In this report, the GAO recommended, among other things, that the FCC improve data-collection methods to more accurately measure broadband access on tribal lands.
The second report, released on September 28, 2018, is entitled “Tribal Broadband: Few Partnerships Exist and RUS Needs to Identify and Address Any Funding Barriers Tribes Face.” In this report, the GAO recommends that the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, identify and address regulatory barriers that impede tribal entities from obtaining RUS funding for broadband deployment.
The third report, not addressed today, will involve research and information regarding the acquisition of spectrum by Indian Tribes. The committee looks forward to its release at a future date.
For witness testimony and video of the hearing click here.