Hoeven Statement on FCC Making Spectrum Available to Improve Connectivity for Tribes in North Dakota

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven issued the following statement after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted spectrum licenses to the following tribes in North Dakota:

  • Three Affiliated Tribes.
  • Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
  • Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.
  • Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, Hoeven has worked to address broadband connectivity issues in Indian Country and improve access to high-speed internet throughout rural America. The senator has held multiple SCIA hearings to review recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the matter, including reports on the need to improve tribes’ access to spectrum and resolving issues with FCC’s broadband maps, which had overstated broadband coverage for tribal communities.

Accordingly, Hoeven cosponsored and worked to pass the Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability (DATA) Act, which was signed into law in March, to improve federal broadband mapping and ensure the inclusion of more data from tribal governments. The senator has also secured $1.7 billion across fiscal years 2018-2020 for the ReConnect Program, a rural broadband loan and grant pilot program.

“These spectrum licenses will serve as an important tool to help improve connectivity for tribal members, providing greater education, health care and economic opportunities,” said Senator Hoeven. “This action complements our broader efforts to ensure broadband services are available to homes and businesses in North Dakota, regardless of their ZIP code. Doing so will support the expansion of our tech sector, which serves as the third wave in our state’s economic growth, and enable us to implement new technologies like precision agriculture to add value to our existing industries.”

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to close the digital divide on Tribal lands,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “Few communities face the digital connectivity challenges faced by rural Tribes. By prioritizing Tribal access to this mid-band spectrum, we are ensuring that Tribes can quickly access spectrum to connect their schools, homes, hospitals, and businesses. Having visited many of these communities and met with Tribal leaders, I have seen first-hand the connectivity difficulties facing Native Nations. I am exceedingly pleased that—less than a year after we announced the timeline for the Rural Tribal Priority Window—we are now distributing 2.5 GHz band licenses to help Tribal communities bridge the digital divide.”

The licenses provide for exclusive use of up to 117.5 megahertz of 2.5 GHz band spectrum that can be used by Tribes to connect their communities with broadband and other advanced wireless services, including 5G.