WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, announced her co-sponsorship of the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021, legislation that would expand the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window to allow Tribal communities the time they need to apply for spectrum licenses to expand broadband access in their communities.
“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need to address the lack of resources available to Tribal communities–especially when it comes to broadband,” said Senator Rosen. “The severe deficiency of wireless services available to Tribal communities limits their ability to connect with loved ones, obtain an education, work from home, access much-needed medical care, and more. That’s why I’m proud to support this legislation that will give Tribal communities an adequate amount of time to apply for spectrum licenses to deploy much-needed internet services on their lands. I will continue working on forward-thinking legislation that addresses the needs of Tribal communities to ensure they have the support they need to not only recover from COVID-19 but to thrive for generations to come.”
BACKGROUND: The FCC created the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window in 2019 to provide Tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations an opportunity to apply for spectrum licenses over their land. Even when the Window was still open, the FCC received numerous requests to extend the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window for application by no less than 180 days from the original deadline of August 3, 2020. The FCC refused to implement an extension and instead added a severely limited 30-day application period.
The Window expired on September 2, 2020, before many Tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations were able to apply–in some cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic–and the FCC declined to extend the deadline any further, in opposition to multiple requests made by Tribal nations, Native Hawaiian organizations, telecommunications groups, and bipartisan Senate and House lawmakers.
The Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021 will require the FCC to open a new 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window that lasts at least 180 days, to commence no later than 30 days after the bill is enacted. This bill will give Tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations an adequate amount of time to apply for spectrum licenses to deploy much-needed internet services on their lands.
Specifically, the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021 would:
- Establish a new 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window;
- Require that the FCC open this new window no later than 30 days after the bill is enacted; and
- Create additional time for tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations to apply for unassigned spectrum licenses over tribal lands to deploy internet services.
Senator Rosen co-sponsored identical legislation last Congress.
The Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021 is endorsed by Access Now; AMERIND; AMERIND Critical Infrastructure; Center for Rural Strategies; National Congress of American Indians; National Consumer Law Center; National Hispanic Media Coalition; National Indian Education Association (NIEA); Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA); New America’s Open Technology Institute; Public Knowledge; Pueblo of Jemez; Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe; Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition; Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association; USET Sovereignty Protection Fund; and Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow, Georgetown Law Institute for Technology, Law & Policy and Benton Senior Fellow & Public Advocate.