Vice President Kamala Harris announced Thursday that the White House is making $ 1 billion in funding available to tribal nations to strengthen their broadband infrastructure.
The funds were included in the $ 900 billion COVID-19 relief plan enacted at the end of December last year, and indigenous communities can now apply for specific grants to cover various broadband-related projects.
Harris was joined by Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin and treasurer of the National Congress of American Indian, for Thursday’s announcement. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Home Secretary Deb Haaland, herself a member of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, also joined the event.
Holsey spoke first, citing the widespread “patches of absolutely no connectivity” to broadband in many indigenous communities, saying the lack of access “creates even more vulnerability.”
“Expanding broadband access would transform indigenous communities, promote economic development, and enable tribal nation governments to provide essential services, including health care, education, public safety and community services. ’emergency,’ Holsey said.
Harris agreed, saying broadband access is essential because it is “fundamentally how we create good jobs and economic opportunity.”
Grants can be used for projects ranging from fiber optic cable laying, digital literacy programs, distance learning, broadband adoption activities and more.
Still, Harris stressed that the funds released Thursday – and those included in President Joe Biden’s US bailout, which was signed into law in March – are just a “down payment on the work we need to do,” pushing the Congress to adopt the $ 2.3 trillion US Jobs Plan as a continued investment in the future.
The US bailout has allocated $ 31.2 billion to tribal nations to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 not necessarily linked to broadband access, although Harris said the pandemic has only done so accentuate the “digital divide” for many indigenous communities.
“We have to keep going until we connect all of the American homes,” Harris said. “With the American Jobs Plan, President Joe Biden and I are determined to achieve 100% coverage.”
Harris has been asked by President Joe Biden to lead the administration’s efforts to increase access to high-speed internet, and has already held discussions with community leaders to discuss the issue.
The U.S. Jobs Plan places a strong emphasis on rebuilding digital infrastructure nationwide, with a planned investment of $ 100 billion to “bring affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to every.” American, ”according to the White House.
The package would also ensure that “funds are set aside for infrastructure on tribal lands and that tribal nations are consulted in administering the program.”