WASHINGTON, DC – During a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) roundtable this week on “Closing the Digital Divide in Native Communities through Infrastructure Investment,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the SCIA, provided an opening statement and questioned panelists about the importance of closing the digital divide through implementation of appropriations, COVID-19 relief bills, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“Closing the digital divide in Native communities has seemed like an impossible task for many years, but Congress has finally stepped up through the passage of bipartisan legislation to provide long awaited investment in broadband infrastructure to Indian Country, Alaska Native villages, and Native Hawaiian communities. I am proud to have been involved with this legislative effort from the start,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski during her opening statement. “As a member of the G10 bipartisan working group and one of the lead negotiators and authors of the infrastructure legislation, a top priority of mine was to ensure Native people were not left out or left behind. I’m proud the infrastructure law includes support for Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) and other Native communities, and tribal set-asides across the board. As the country invests in itself to stay competitive, we know Tribal nations and Native communities have a greater need for these investments in the first place.”
Click here to watch the Vice Chairman’s opening statement.
“We are at a pivotal moment with many opportunities to expand broadband into places that have been unserved or underserved. This includes rural Alaska and especially Native villages. Many of the challenges that face Indian Country are similar but perhaps more pronounced in Alaska. While Tribes, states, and ANCs prepare to access these new investments, Alaska faces unique obstacles to extending robust broadband infrastructure to every community,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski during the questioning period of the SCIA roundtable.
Click here to watch the Senator’s questioning of the panelists.
The roundtable panelists included:
·The Honorable Manuel Heart, Chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Towaoc, CO
·The Honorable William Smith, Alaska Area Representative & Board Member of the National Indian Health Board, Valdez, AK
·Mr. Walter W. Haase, P.E., General Manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, Fort Defiance, AZ
·Ms. Carrie L. Billy, President & Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, Alexandria, VA
·Mr. Matthew Rantanen, Co-Chair of the Subcommittee Technology & Telecommunications, National Congress of American Indians, Washington, DC
·Mr. Donavan Kealoha, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of the Purple Mai’a Foundation, Aiea, HI
·Ms. Hallie Bissett, Executive Director of the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, Anchorage, AK
Click here to watch the entire roundtable.