Sinema Calls For Immediate Action to Expand Broadband in Native American Communities During Coronavirus Pandemic

Sep 17, 2020

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema urged immediate action from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expedite broadband connectivity to Native American communities in Arizona during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Access to broadband is essential to ensure Native American communities in Arizona have the resources they need to preserve public health and repair the economic fallout resulting from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sinema.
Sinema’s letter requests the FCC to formally recognize the digital divide on native lands, increase the Lifeline subsidy—which allows subscribers additional resources to connect through personal hand-held devices—to $75 for consumers on tribal lands, increase the tribal set-aside for 5G access, extend the 2.5 GHz priority window for Tribes to apply for broadband licenses, expedite the processing of Rural Health Care Program applications, and provide technical support to Tribal Colleges and Universities. These investments urged by Sinema ensure Native Americans in Arizona have equitable access to broadband.
Click HERE to read Sinema’s letter.
During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Sinema called for continued expansion of broadband across Arizona during the coronavirus pandemic. Sinema indicated that future coronavirus relief legislation must include a long-term plan to invest in broadband infrastructure, ensure we have the appropriate regulatory framework, develop better coverage maps, and utilize federal resources efficiently.
According to the FCC, over 20 million Americans lack access to quality internet at home, including as many as 12 million children. This includes tribal communities, where 36% of households lack access to broadband. Students without internet access at home consistently score lower in reading, math, and science. This existing inequity is being exacerbated during the current public health emergency as schools suspend in-person classes and transition to remote learning over the internet to protect the health of students, faculty, and staff.
Sinema recently helped introduce the Emergency Educational Connections Act, legislation aimed at ensuring all Arizona K-12 students have adequate home internet connectivity and devices during the coronavirus pandemic. Sinema also cosponsored the bipartisan Keeping Critical Connections Act—legislation that helps small broadband companies provide critical connectivity for students and families to continue their education during the coronavirus pandemic.