National Congress of American Indians calls on the Federal Communications Commission to honor its trust responsibility to tribal nations during global pandemic

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FCC to extend 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window 30 days instead of 180

News Release

National Congress of American Indians

Despite widespread requests from tribal nations, intertribal organizations, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Congress, various corporations, and national broadband advocates to extend the 2.5 GHz tribal priority filing window by 180 days, earlier today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced only a 30-day extension of the 2.5 GHz Tribal Priority Window (TPW) to September 2, 2020.

The Federal Communications Commission argues that “[a]n extension would delay the ability of those Tribes that have filed to receive licenses to provide badly needed broadband service to their communities.”[1] However, the Federal Communications Commission record provides no support for this assertion, which only serves to create needless and harmful division between tribal nations. As set forth in the National Congress of American Indians’ Motion to Stay, tribal nations that have applied for the Tribal Priority Window would not be harmed by an extension because the Federal Communications Commission has granted Special Temporary Authority to several tribal nations to begin operating in the 2.5 GHz band,and can do so for others.[2]

The Tribal Priority Window is one of the few inexpensive solutions to overcoming the numerous barriers that have prevented better connection to tribal areas, as well as preparing them for future high-speed connections. A failure to recognize the effect of COVID-19 on the very entities the Federal Communications Commission seeks to help with the Tribal Priority Window will affect access to basic healthcare and education across Indian Country. Significant additional time for tribal nations to file for licenses during this window is necessary and critical.

The Federal Communications Commission, at a minimum, must provide the same 180-day extension to tribal nations that it gave to the cable industry due to COVID-19.[3] Indian Health Service and Center for Disease Control data document the devastating impacts of COVID-19 across Indian Country.[4] The Federal Communications Commission must uphold its trust responsibility to Indian Country, especially during this unique time of need. Failure to do so is unacceptable. National Congress of American Indians will continue to advocate for an extension of the Tribal Priority Window – to enable all tribal nations the ability to access this critical resource – and calls upon Congress to pass legislation to ensure Indian Country has access to spectrum on tribal lands.

[1] https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-819A1.pdf

[2] Motion footnote.

[3] From motion

[4] Cite to situation summary

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. National Congress of American Indians 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 www.ncai.org.

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