September 23, 2022

Vice Chairman Murkowski Urges More Tribal, State and Federal Coordination to Bridge the Digital Divide in Native Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), co-hosted a roundtable discussion titled, “Promoting and Supporting Tribal Access to Spectrum and Related Benefits in Native Communities” to hear from Tribal leaders and federal agencies about working together to strengthen opportunities and access to broadband connectivity and spectrum.


“Too many of our rural communities in Alaska are on the wrong side of the digital divide, lacking broadband infrastructure and access to spectrum that are necessary for economic and educational opportunities and the delivery of services today. The destruction caused by the historic storm that just hit Western Alaska will only exacerbate those inequities. Now, more than ever, the need for robust coordination between our state, local, Tribal and federal governments to get these technologies deployed is critical,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski. “At the federal level, we have made good progress in advancing tribal broadband infrastructure, including through the bipartisan infrastructure law. Now, we have to see those opportunities through by ensuring these projects are accomplished in a timely and cost-effective manner.


Click here for Vice Chairman Murkowski’s full opening remarks.


During the hearing, Senator Murkowski invited Chris Cropley, Network Architect for Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, to explain the unique broadband challenges facing Alaska and how the regional Tribe is leading an effort to bring high-speed internet to Southeast Alaska. Chris Cropley described how Tlingit and Haida is planning to leverage its spectrum allocation to support innovations that will extend internet service to Southeast Alaska. He also made recommendations about how to overcome obstacles to deploying broadband, including issues with permitting.


The Senator also asked GAO about its findings and recommendations for better coordination among the federal agencies, a need for an FCC national strategy to better develop tribal access to spectrum, and how access to funding opportunities for Tribes can be improved by removing obstacles. Click here to watch the questions from Vice Chairman Murkowski.


For more information on the SCIA roundtable, click here.