Information is necessary to daily decision making. However, many across the country, including Tribal Communities, continue to lack the infrastructure and resources that would enable access to information. This communications divide has been the focus of Mignon L. Clyburn, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In April 2016, the Commissioner announced the launch of the “Connecting Communities: Bridging the Communications and Opportunities Divide” Tour, and began meeting with rural and urban communities to learn of the benefits and challenges facing the communications sector nationwide. This tour included visits to Tribal Communities to hear of specific challenges that Indian Country continues to face.
In a press release from April 2016 announcing the tour, Clyburn said, “I’m excited to embark on this national tour to hear from those seeking to bridge the communications and opportunities divide. This is a unique opportunity to gain new insights and ensure that the FCC hears a wide range of perspectives, including the many voices that often go unheard.”
The Connecting Communities tour will conclude with the #Solutions2020 Policy Forum taking place today, October 19, 2016, at 1 p.m. EDT at the Gewirz Building, Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001. Over 20 panelists from across the country, including Loris Taylor, President and CEO of Native Public Media, will discuss some of the most challenging issues facing the communications sector to date. Topics of the policy forum will include
- Bridging the Affordability Gap
- What is 5G?
- Combating Inequality in the Communications Sector
- Health Care: An Unfinished Chapter of the National Broadband Plan
- The Future of Viewpoint Diversity
The discussion will be streamed live at https://www.fcc.gov/live.
You can read the press release at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-338868A1.pdf.
For more information about the forum, visit https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2016/10/commissioner-clyburn%E2%80%99s-solutions2020-policy-forum.
Native Public Media signs on with 75 public interest organizations and sent a letter to the Chairman and Commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) calling on the agency to move forward this month on three issues currently before it: the set-top box rulemaking, the broadband privacy rulemaking, and the zero rating investigation.
The FCC has been working toward actions on these three issues for months, if not years. The agency could vote any day on proposed new rules for set-top boxes, after it postponed a scheduled vote in late September. It is currently scheduled to vote on new privacy rules that would limit broadband providers’ ability to use and share their customers’ data for non-service-related purposes. And it is in the midst of an investigation into abusive data caps and zero rating plans that many advocates argue violate net neutrality rules.
Public interest organizations view action on these issues as necessary to make internet, cable, and satellite services more affordable and open, and to preserve internet users’ privacy. “This Commission has made bold and historic moves to dismantle technological barriers to free and unfettered speech, making tools for generating content more accessible, and networks for sharing and reading more egalitarian,” the letter says, noting in particular the importance of the 2015 Open Internet Order that established net neutrality rules. “But there is still much left to do.” As the year comes to an end and Washington anticipates being thrown into the turmoil of the election and changing Administration, the letter urges swift resolution of these issues. “Each day that passes without marking progress on these important issues is another day of missed opportunities,” the letter says.
You can read the letter sent to the FCC here – 2016-10-public-interest-fcc-letter-final
By Brian Cladoosby
This Sunday’s presidential debate marks another milestone for this election cycle and a critical moment for Native American communities nationwide. While the presidential candidates will be discussing their plans for the country, Tribal leaders from across the nation will be gathering to finalize our priorities for the next president at the National Congress of American Indian’s annual conference.
For Native Americans, the needs for our communities are just as diverse as we are, and it is important that the next president understands and works with our leaders to further empower our communities to thrive in the 21st century. A crucial ingredient to our success is ensuring affordable, reliable high-speed internet access.
Millions of Americans recognize the importance of the internet as an equalizing tool of economic, social, and political power. Indeed, many advocates speak passionately about the important role of the internet in our everyday lives and the need to address the digital divide.
Often missing from these conversations is the reality that for Native American communities, this divide is much larger. The Federal Communications Commission’s broadband progress report found that 41 percent of Americans living on tribal lands lacked access to broadband, compared to 10 percent of all Americans. A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that unusually high costs for service and unreliable connections were among important limitations to increasing internet services for some tribes.
This divide is tragic, but unfortunately not surprising. Native American communities for generations have been disconnected and isolated from the rest of America – often living in remote areas. According to the most recent data on our communities, 28 percent of all American Indians and Native Alaskans live in poverty, a number much higher than any other racial group.
Although the internet serves as a means to connect people to jobs, educational, political and healthcare resources, the internet’s promise of opportunity for all does not reach our communities. In our increasingly digitally connected and reliant world, Native American communities are behind.
Take the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota for example. In a recent interview with MSNBC regarding protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault traveled over an hour to the city of Bismarck to conduct the interview via Skype because of spotty and delayed internet service on his reservation.
At a time when the largest Native American protest over water in Indian Country is taking place, this broadband black hole on Standing Rock has made traditional and social media coverage of these massive protests difficult. Lawrence O’Donnell, host of MSNBC’s “Last Word,” highlighted this in a Facebook live video following his visit to Standing Rock. He noted that the lack of access to reliable internet and cellular services, along with the high cost to bring live TV equipment to the reservation and protest site, have resulted in limited news coverage.
Even children on Tribal reservations nationwide struggle to access the internet, often needing to frequent commercial areas with Wi-Fi hot spots miles from home to finish their homework. They suffer the double whammy of their families not being able to afford internet service or worse, not having service available at any price.
Lack of affordable access to broadband makes a difference in the social, political, and economic power and success of our communities. There has been some progress over the past eight years to ensure that tribal communities are a part of policy conversations to address the country’s internet access issues. We have seen a restructuring of existing federal programs to provide greater access to the internet for low-income families, public schools, and libraries. President Obama even launched his ConnectHome initiative– a public-private partnership pilot to provide broadband access to 275,000 low-income homes– among the Choctaw Nation.
But the next president still has much work to do to ensure that the over 500 tribal nations across the country have access to reliable, affordable high speed internet. This includes making more spectrum available with a focus on connecting and deploying affordable broadband to our communities. It also includes ensuring greater representation of Native Americans and our policy priorities within key government agencies.
As we sit on the eve of the second presidential debate, with just over 30 days until the election, our communities are watching to ensure the next president is prepared to address the needs of Native American people. Education, jobs, and health are all areas where technology could make a real difference in our communities. Expanding access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet is vital to achieving this promise.
Brian Cladoosby serves as the 21st President of the National Congress of American Indians.
National Preparedness Month
Flagstaff, AZ —In an emergency, every second counts. That’s why it’s important to have a plan to be prepared for the types of emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters that could affect us where we live, work, and also where we visit. September is National Preparedness Month to encourage developing an emergency plan.
The theme for National Preparedness Month is, “Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today,” with an emphasis on preparedness for youth, older adults, and people with disabilities and access needs. Additionally, in Tribal Communities, socio-economic factors can contribute to the lack of disaster and emergency preparedness.
“Tribal Communities must prioritize and take ownership of disaster preparedness for survival. In support, NPM developed the Emergency Communications Guidebook for Native Broadcasters who often are seen as first responders in their communities. The Guidebook is a tool to strengthen Tribal Emergency Communications in an effort to encourage preparedness and decrease fear before and during a disaster to reduce loss and improve recovery after the disaster,” announced Loris Taylor, President and CEO, Native Public Media.
The American Red Cross suggests families develop an emergency plan, it can be as simple as conducting an assessment of your home to test and install smoke alarms and provide fire, safety disaster education to the household, including an evacuation plan.
In concert with the release of the Guidebook, NPM will release the Family Disaster Handbook. The Handbook is an effort to clarify the disaster system by providing Native American families with accurate, timely and relevant information about their risks, options, and practical steps they must take to save lives and protect property before disaster strikes.
“As we recognize National Preparedness Month, it is important to know that preparing for emergencies is more than a one-time pursuit. Being ready for unexpected catastrophes must become a way of life for families and communities everywhere,” said Vincent Davis, Founder of PreparednessMatters.Org. “Those who are most vulnerable should be our priority. Saving lives and reducing suffering should be our goal. Only after we have done all we can to prepare, can we then leave the outcome to the Creator. Live Prepared!”
The NPM Guidebook will be available to Native broadcasters by October 2016.
The At-Large Tribal Ambassadors Project addresses the digital divide throughout Tribal communities and specifically aims to generate increased awareness and understanding of Internet governance development within un-served and under-served Tribal communities. The Tribal Ambassadors, in representing indigenous groups in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico, will be assigned a Coach with a goal to gain overall ICANN experience and understanding of the Internet multi-stakeholder community. Additional details and requirements are available on the At-Large Tribal Ambassadorship Workspace.
The Fellowship covers travel, hotel, transportation costs, and a stipend to Hyderabad, India for the duration of the ICANN meeting for two Tribal Ambassadors from November 3-9, 2016. Applicants will need a passport and Visa for travel. Visa fees will be covered by the Tribal Ambassadorship Fellowship as part of the travel support. To apply, complete the the online application by August 14, 2016.
About the Project
The At-Large Tribal Ambassadors Project is a complement to the current ICANN Fellowship program that has a goal to create a broader and more regionally diverse base of knowledgeable constituents to build capacity within the ICANN Multi-stakeholder Model. Participation in the program at an ICANN Meeting is a “fast track” experience of engagement into that community model, with presentations designed to facilitate understanding of the many pieces and parts of ICANN while providing opportunities to network and promoting interaction with staff and community leaders.
Who may apply for and be awarded a Tribal Ambassadors Project fellowship?
The Project is targeted at individuals who identify with, or are part of an indigenous group in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico. These people are either new to the ICANN environment, are familiar with ICANN but have yet to attend a face-to-face meeting, or have started participating in ICANN by other means but are in need of travel funding in order to broaden their knowledge and deepen their engagement. Priority will be given to constituent members of Native Public Media (NPM), Indigenous members of other NARALO At-Large Structures in the US, Canada, or Puerto Rico and to NARALO unaffiliated individual members. Other Indigenous members or individuals are also encouraged and welcome to apply. The only requirement is that these individuals must NOT be involved in other ICANN supported travel programs at time of selection.
How are the Tribal Ambassador Project fellowships awarded?
Tribal Ambassador Project Fellowships are awarded by an independent selection committee based on a mix of criteria including applicant experience and references. The Selection Committee names are listed on the Tribal Ambassador web page as well as a description of the project.