Alaska Predicted to Receive a Majority of Tribal Broadband Funds

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2022 — Alaska’s remoteness might lead the state to receive a majority of federal government funds allotted to broadband for Tribal communities.

“Alaska is going to be one of the highest areas of need,” said Hallie Bissett, executive director of the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, speaking at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.

As many as 233 of Alaska’s native communities do not have access to broadband at 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) downline x 3 Mbps upload service, she said. “That’s unserved, everybody. Unserved. Not underserved.” The committee’s Wednesday hearing on “ Closing the Digital Divide in Native Communities Through Infrastructure Investment ” aimed to collect feedback on distribution of Tribal broadband funds.

More money needs to be spent on better broadband access for education in Tribal communities. Manuel Hart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Towaoc, Colorado, said, “We’ve had to put in hotspots where parents can bring their students to the parking lot just to access the internet.” Screenshot of Manuel Hart during the hearing. Hart said his communities have no access to fiber and need fiber to every home in his community.

Panelists also discussed access to telehealth as the pandemic continues.

William Smith , a veteran and a spokesperson from the National Indian Health Board, said that if the government fiscally bolsters telehealth programs within Tribal communities, residents will be able to save money and access the healthcare they might not otherwise receive.

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