Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands

Author(s): 
Brian Howard
Traci Morris
Publication Date: 
Friday, 2020, February 7

Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands, a report from the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University (AIPI) provides a detailed examination of broadband access, device use, and uses of the Internet by Tribal peoples on Tribal lands. Authors Brian Howard and Traci Morris completed the 2019 report aiming to develop a closer look at the digital divide and "to create a new baseline for future studies with the expectation of potentially measuring growth in coming years."

The AIPI worked with Tribal leadership and members to design a study that would include the participation of those living on Tribal lands. In addition to providing historical perspective on why the issue of digital inclusion has not been studied adequately, the authors address the multiple facets of the digital divide(s) that Native American peoples who live on Tribal lands face and how the large ISPs have left most behind.

The report explains in detail the survey questions, results, and methodology.

Based on the results of the survey, AIPI provides policy recommendations directed at different public and private sectors. At the foundation of their recommendations is the link between local self-reliance and increased adoption of better connectivity:

There needs to be a new model to address the Digital Divide prevalent in rural and Tribal America. What is needed is a positively related regulatory disruption to find new solutions for community based networks for positive social disruption.

AIPI makes recommendations for Congress, such as:

  • Establish the Office of Native Affairs and Policy as a standalone, independent office at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with a permanent annual budget.
  • Establish a Tribal Broadband Fund to support broadband deployment, maintenance, and technical assistance training.

Recommendations for the telecom industry include:

  • Discontinue the practice of stockpiling spectrum licenses over Tribal lands, especially when real deployment and service solutions on Tribal lands are not near-term objectives.
  • Develop internal training programs on how to work with Tribes, and develop external training, technical assistance, and internship/mentorship programs for Tribal members.

The report authors also provide recommendations for the AIPI on next steps and offers recommendations for Tribal Governments, businesses and trade associations, and for federal agencies.

Read the full report here or download it at SSRN.