The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has granted additional spectrum licenses for Tribal lands.

In a statement, the FCC confirmed that it has granted an additional 40 spectrum licenses in the 2.5 GHz band to help connect rural Tribal communities to the Internet. The mid-band spectrum the FCC granted can be used for 5G and other advanced wireless services.

“Wireless spectrum in the hands of the unserved and underserved is a powerful tool,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “This is especially true for Tribes, which should have the opportunity to offer their communities the broadband access that is so critical for participation in the digital age. I am committed to continuing our efforts to make that happen, consistent with our Federal trust relationship.”

With the addition of the 40 new licenses, the FCC has now granted 259 licenses in the 2.5 GHz band to specifically help address rural Tribal connectivity needs. The FCC said that these licenses provide for the exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of 2.5 GHz band spectrum that Tribes can use to connect their rural communities to wireless broadband and other advanced services.

The FCC will continue to review and process additional applications filed in the Rural Tribal Priority Window. The Rural Tribal Priority Window was created by the FCC in 2019 and the initial window was opened Monday, February 3, 2020, and closed on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Over the last year, the FCC received requests to extend the priority window for application by no less than 180 days from the original deadline of August 3, 2020. However, FCC declined to do so. As a result, Senate Democrats and Independents reintroduced legislation last month to expand the 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window.

“Far too many Native communities lack reliable internet access – a crisis that shuts them out of a 21st-century economy, limits their access to life-saving services, and is even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., one of the bill’s cosponsors. “The FCC didn’t sufficiently recognize the difficulties many tribal nations have faced, so I’m introducing the Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021 to give tribal nations a real chance at increasing their internet access.”

The Extending Tribal Broadband Priority Act of 2021 specifically:

  • Establishes a new 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window;
  • Requires that the FCC open this new window no later than 30 days after the bill is enacted; and
  • Creates additional time for tribal nations and Native Hawaiian organizations to apply for unassigned spectrum licenses over tribal lands to deploy internet services.
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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs