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WASHINGTON — In addition to articles already covered by Native News Online, here is a roundup of other news released from Washington, D.C. that impacts Indian Country recently.

FCC Launches Enhanced Competition Incentive Program for Wireless Radio Services 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday launched the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program (ECIP), which incentivizes wireless licensees to make underutilized spectrum available to small carriers, tribal nations, and entities serving rural areas in furtherance of the Commission’s “100 percent broadband policy.” 

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“Deployment in rural areas can be challenging, so we created an innovative opportunity for small carriers and Tribal Nations to access scarce spectrum resources,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel.  “It’s a terrific tool to use—among others—to make sure we reach 100 percent of us with high-speed service.”

Thursday’s action builds upon on the order adopted by the Commission in 2022 and Congressional goals in the MOBILE NOW Act to incentivize beneficial transactions in the public interest.  To participate in the program, parties to a license assignment or lease will demonstrate ECIP eligibility when seeking FCC approval of their transaction, consistent with existing secondary market rules and processes.  Parties seeking approval for wireless transactions and leases may now file applications seeking to participate in the program.

Community Connect Broadband Grants Available to Tribal Governments

Federally-recognized Tribes are eligible for United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Community Connect Grants. These grants provide financial assistance to eligible applicants that will provide broadband service for eligible applicants which include federally-recognize Tribes. The Funds can be used for the following:

  • The construction, acquisition, or leasing of facilities, spectrum, land or buildings used to deploy broadband service for:
    • All residential and business customers located within the Proposed Funded Service Area (PFSA)
    • All participating critical community facilities (such as public schools, fire stations, and public libraries)
  • The cost of providing broadband service free of charge to the critical community facilities for 2 years.
  • Less than 10% of the grant amount or up to $150,000 may be used for the improvement, expansion, construction or acquisition of a community center that provides online access to the public.

For questions about the Community Connect Grant Program, please email Community Connect or call the Loan Origination and Approval Division at (202) 720-0800.

New Biden Adminstration Rule Eliminates Burdensome Costs for Tribes to Operate Child Support Programs

The Biden-Harris Administration’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), announced a final rule to eliminate a burdensome cost sharing requirement for Tribal child support programs.

The new rule is consistent with President Biden’s recent executive order on Reforming Federal Funding and Support for Tribal Nations to Better Embrace Our Trust Responsibilities and Promote the Next Era of Tribal Self-Determination and part of a Biden Administration push to more effectively support Tribal governments. The rule cuts red tape and improves the flexibility and accessibility of federal funding so that Tribes can grow their economies and provide their citizens with vital and innovative services.

This rule also promotes equity and honors Tribal sovereignty and the trust relationship between the federal government and Tribal Nations. The purpose behind the trust doctrine is and always has been to ensure the survival and welfare of Indian Tribes and people. This includes an obligation to provide those services required to protect and enhance Tribal lands, resources and self-government, and includes those economic and social programs necessary to raise the standard of living and social well-being of Native people.

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