Bridging the Digital Divide: The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program

A Native American family using a computer to do homework
A Native American family using a computer to do homework

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is an ongoing initiative by the US government to provide funding and infrastructure to close the digital divide. Here’s an overview of the program and the progress made since its inception in 2021. Fly Video Productions / Getty Images What Is the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program?

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program was part of the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act, a stimulus and spending package that aimed in part to address issues that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial investment in the TBCP was $980 million, which the government rewarded as grants.

These grants aim to pay for broadband deployment, distance learning, and telehealth while subsidizing the costs of networks on Tribal lands. After an immense response to the program, Congress made another $2 billion available to the fund.

The original conditions of the grants have also changed in light of the 280 applications for funding. The current stipulations are: Recipients must commit the money to a project within 18 months (originally six months).

Funds must be spent within four years (up from one year).

Any funds left over must go toward further broadband projects; they do not have to return any remainder to the U.S. Treasury. How Many Grants Have Been Awarded So Far? The program is ongoing and, of the applications it received during the application window (which closed in September 2021), 132 projects are currently active with total funding of about $1.7 billion. Applications go through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; […]

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