FCC Chairman Shares More on Plans to Expand High Speed Internet

Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai spoke at the National Tribal Broadband Summit. During his speech, Pai gave more insight about the FCC’s ongoing commitment to invest in expanding high speed Internet access in underserved areas.

“On my very first day as FCC Chairman, I said that my top priority would be closing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of high-speed Internet to all Americans,” Pai told the crowd, before sharing stories of the need for wireless coverage in rural areas, including among Tribal communities.

“Visits like these have shown me that bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tribal lands can be a game-changer. It opens enables teleworking, job searches, and even starting an online business. It enables patients to consult with specialists without having to drive hours to the nearest hospital. And it enables students to take advanced math and science classes online, if they aren’t offered at the local school,” he shared. “I’m proud to have launched several FCC initiatives to expand broadband access on Tribal lands, which complement the efforts of our federal partners.”

These are some of the ways these policies and programs will assist underserved communities.

  • Giving Tribes priority access to spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band by removing obsolete restrictions on the band, allowing greater flexibility in how the spectrum can be used.
  • Giving rural Tribes an exclusive window to obtain the spectrum for free, before any commercial use can be purchased.
  • Opening up the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to offer financial support for operating expenses of small, legacy carriers serving Tribal communities.
  • Authorizing a new round of support for rate-of-return carriers, which will ensure fixed broadband is available to over 37,000 locations on Tribal lands.

“Looking ahead, there’s more to come. The FCC recently launched an effort to create a $20.4 billion reverse auction to connect rural homes and businesses. We call it our Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. An important priority for me is to ensure that this program will advance broadband deployment on rural Tribal lands,” Pai shared.

The FCC is working with an advisory group, including Tribal members and senior Commission staff, to “better understand and address the unique challenges of increasing deployment on Tribal lands.”

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