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2016 Native Broadcast Summit

Native Public Media thanks all our presenters and sponsors for their generous support of the 2016 National Native Media Conference Radio Station Compliance and Information Session.

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What is the Future of Native Radio? Local Narratives, Networking Communities

“This two-day exploratory seminar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard will take a microscope to an industry that exists below the radar, looking at the Native American radio landscape and examining its cultural, communications, and social significance…” retrieved from

Oklahoma Map 1870 to 1890

Washington, DC – In response to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Ajit Pai’s proposal to limit enhanced tribal support under the Lifeline program, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and Native Public Media (NPM) believe the Commissioner’s justification relies on an inaccurate understanding of tribal lands. Commissioner Pai’s proposal to reform enhanced tribal Lifeline support will negatively impact the program’s purpose of providing affordable phone services to low-income residents on tribal lands.


On March 29th, Commissioner Pai issued a Press Statement outlining his proposals to reform the Lifeline program. Currently, the program provides a monthly phone bill discount for low-income consumers and enhanced tribal support for residents of tribal lands. Commissioner Pai proposes to limit enhanced tribal support to counties with less than 50 people per square mile and proclaimed that Lifeline was, “intended to support the construction of [telecommunications] facilities in Indian Country, but has instead encouraged abuse of the program in large cities (like Tulsa, Oklahoma and Reno, Nevada) and suburban communities (like Chandler, Arizona).”


NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Pata and NPM Board Chair Matthew Rantanen issued a joint response stating, “We are supportive of sensible reforms to the Lifeline program to cut waste, fraud, and abuse. However, Commissioner Pai’s understanding of enhanced tribal support disregards the program’s purpose to provide affordable phone services for low-income residents on tribal lands. It is also important to note that areas like Chandler, AZ are not located within the legal boundaries of any tribal lands. These misinterpretations overshadow the needs of the over 40 percent of tribal lands lacking access to vital telecommunications services.”


NCAI and NPM assert that restricting enhanced tribal support to county level metrics—instead of the legal and historical boundaries of tribal lands—will further impede the build out and adoption of communications services in Indian Country. Additionally, Commissioner Pai’s statements regarding Lifeline’s purpose as an infrastructure program is greatly misguided as other programs regulated by the FCC are specifically designed to support infrastructure build out.


During the FCC’s initial rulemaking last year to reform the Lifeline program, Oklahoma was targeted as the center of ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’ because most of the state was recognized as ‘tribal land’. Since then, Commissioner Pai has specifically targeted the enhanced tribal support without recognizing the unique tenants of federal Indian law and the legal tribal lands status of Oklahoma and elsewhere. “Commissioner Pai’s remarks overall are unfair to Indian Country and its citizens who need these vital services for healthcare, emergencies, social services, and to provide contact information for job applications,” conclude Pata and Rantanen.


The FCC is set to make a final ruling on proposals to finalize reforms to the Lifeline Program during its Open Meeting on March 31st.



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About The National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit


About Native Public Media:

Native Public Media is a national organization dedicated to bringing media opportunities to Native Americans across the United States on multiple platforms including radio, television and the Internet. There are currently 56 Native owned and licensed radio stations serving tribal communities. NPM provides programs and services to the Native media network in areas of regulatory compliance, digital literacy, community engagement and telecommunications and communications policymaking. For more information visit

NPM Board member, Matthew Rantanen, & Tribal Digital Village Network Awarded CENIC’s 2016 Innovations in Networking Award for Broadband Applications.

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The Native Broadcast Summit is coming April 21-22, 2016, at the Gila River Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino.

For more information, visit the event page.

Flagstaff, Arizona – March 04, 2016 – Geoffrey C. Blackwell, Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel at AMERIND Risk was elected to join the prestigious Native Public Media board of directors.

Blackwell said in his acceptance, “It is an honor to be elected and to be back with the NPM family. I look forward to serving the interests of NPM members on our Board, and helping guide NPM’s provision of world class services and both national and international policy advocacy.”

Previously, Mr. Blackwell was a senior manager and policy-maker at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He was the founding Chief of the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy from 2010 to 2015. Prior to his most recent federal service, Mr. Blackwell worked for five years, from 2005 to 2010, as the Corporate Director of Strategic Relations and Minority

Business Development at Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc. (CNI), a business incubation holding company of the Chickasaw Nation. Mr. Blackwell also chaired the Telecommunications Subcommittee of the National Congress of American Indians, served on the FCC’s Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age, and served as the indigenous representative from the United States on the international Indigenous Commission for Communications Technologies in the Americas.

Blackwell, an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is also descended from the Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. Blackwell is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia School of Law.

Also re-elected to the NPM Board of Directors were Matthew Rantanen and Roanne Robinson- Shaddox. Both Rantanen and Robinson-Shaddox have previously served 3 year terms on the NPM Board of Directors.


Native Public Media is a national organization dedicated to bringing media opportunities to Native Americans across the United States on multiple platforms including radio, television and the Internet. There are currently 56 Native owned and licensed radio stations serving tribal communities. NPM provides programs and services to the Native media network in areas of regulatory compliance, digital literacy, community engagement and telecommunications and communications policymaking.

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Native Youth

Flagstaff, Arizona – March 8, 2016 – Flagstaff, Arizona – March 8, 2016 – Native Public Media is a vigorous advocate for the communications rights of Native Americans and the announcement of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn of a pending vote to modernize the Lifeline program is critically important to Indian Country.

While broadband access may be ubiquitous in many parts of the United States, broadband has not been extended to vast swaths of Tribal lands, many of which are located in remote rural areas of this country.  NPM agrees that  “broadband is essential to participate in society … and ‘is necessary for even basic communications in the 21st century.’”

The purpose of Lifeline is to ensure access to affordable telephone services for low-income citizens. NPM appreciates the Commission’s efforts to reform the Lifeline program to meet 21st century needs by modernizing Lifeline to include broadband.  However, Lifeline reform must not be the primary means of promoting broadband deployment.  Such reform is secondary to other efforts that the Commission could make to help bring broadband to Indian Country.

The primary reason Indian Country lacks broadband access is the high cost of building broadband infrastructure in the many remote areas where Tribal members live. According to the 2015 Broadband Progress Report approximately 85 percent of residents of Tribal lands in rural areas lack access to fixed broadband speeds of 25 mbps/3mbps as compared to 17 percent of the entire U.S. population. Unfortunately, what Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn propose will do little to alleviate this disparity.

Further, while NPM supports many of the changes in the proposed Lifeline Reform Order, as described in today’s announcement, NPM cannot determine if any of the concerns previously expressed by NPM and others in the Tribal community will be addressed. These promoted targeted efforts to increase broadband in Indian Country, such as by establishing a Tribal broadband factor.  Nor does the release about the proposed Order address how the Enhanced Tribal Lifeline program will be impacted or whether Tribal eligibility standards have been tightened. NPM looks forward to reading the final Lifeline Reform Order for answers to its previous concerns.

Adoption of the Enhanced Tribal Lifeline program has always been based on a recognition of the complexities tethered to providing telecommunications services in Indian Country.  NPM hopes that the full Commission will recognize them and tailor the Lifeline Reform Order appropriately.

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“Across Indian Country, broadband darkness still pervades our communities.  Students still seek out Internet hot spots to complete homework, and hundreds of Native Americans still cannot access opportunities on the most profound telecommunications highway in world.  The next President must make a sincere commitment to prioritize unserved and underserved communities including those on Tribal reservations and homelands.  It’s the right thing to do.”  Loris Taylor, President & CEO, Native Public Media

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