The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced the availability of nearly $1 billion in additional funding to expand Internet infrastructure and adoption on Tribal Lands. This additional funding, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), is part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.
The program is meant to improve quality of life, spur economic development, and create opportunities for remote employment, online entrepreneurship, remote learning, and telehealth by expanding broadband access and by providing digital training and inclusion programs to Native American communities.
Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program
The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is a nearly $3 billion grant program and part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All Initiative. The funds are made available from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ($2 billion) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 ($980 million).
Under the first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the TBCP has already awarded $1.78 billion to 191 Tribal entities since the program began in 2021.
The program will deploy high-speed internet infrastructure, establish affordable internet access programs, and support digital inclusion projects in Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.
Key Information on Second Notice of Funding Opportunity
- NTIA held a series of Tribal Consultations on NOFO 2 priorities and processes in September 2022, which included comments from 33 tribal leaders.
- Applications are due by January 23, 2024.
- Tribes who did not receive funding or received Equitable Distributions awards for planning projects under NOFO 1 will be given priority for funding under the second NOFO.
- NTIA created guidance materials for its applications, including budget and project narrative submissions to assist tribes in applying for funding.
- NTIA will host regular webinars during the application window to discuss the NOFO and provide technical assistance.
Key Differences in Second NOFO
NTIA developed the first TBCP NOFO prior to the passage of the BIL. This new NOFO includes updates based on the BIL and reflects lessons learned from the first funding round. A full list of application requirements is available in the second NOFO. Key updates include:
In Tribal consultations, NTIA learned that the 90-day application window in NOFO was insufficient for some eligible Tribal entities to develop high-quality applications. The second NOFO extends this period to six months.
NTIA will prioritize funding for infrastructure deployment projects and expects to allocate not more than $100 million for standalone use and adoption (digital inclusion) projects. Standalone planning projects are no longer eligible.
Eligible entities will be prioritized and evaluated on:
- Promoting workforce development projects such as on-the-job training and certification.
- Including capacity-building strategies that promote development of lasting digital skills and technology-based jobs.
NTIA is formalizing a number of processes that were developed during the first NOFO and expanding them to leverage the most up-to-date mapping technology and availability data to review and monitor de-duplication of federal funding of projects on Tribal lands, including:
- Comparing proposed service area against NTIA’s National Broadband Availability Map and the FCC Funding Map in addition to continued coordination with all relevant agencies to prevent duplicative funding with other federal initiatives.
- Implementing new OIG Compliance requirements for disclosures, reporting, whistleblower protection, and enforcement.
- Requiring applicants to submit GIS shapefiles to demonstrate unserved locations.
- Requiring applicants to provide a Tribal Government Certification attesting to the unserved status of its Tribal Lands.
- Requiring applications to officially disclose all current and/or terminated Enforceable Buildout Commitments and broadband facilities or equipment on Tribal Land.
- Requiring applications to show that a challenge has been filed to the FCC’s National Broadband Map if the map does not reflect the Tribe’s unserved status.