Back in late 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) set aside $2 billion for Tribal Broadband. Now, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working to get that money out the door. The agency announced this week that half of the total allotment will be used to make awards in a previously announced funding round for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which saw overwhelming demand for support last year.
The most recent application window for the Tribal Connectivity Program was open from June to September 2021, with the agency planning to award a total of $980 million in support. But in December, the NTIA announced the program was massively oversubscribed, noting it received a total of 301 applications seeking more than $5.8 billion in funding for Tribal broadband projects.
In a notice posted this week, the NTIA said it will add $1 billion from the IIJA allotment to the funding pot for that round, allowing it to award a total of $1.98 billion. Entities who applied during the June/September 2021 application window don’t have to take any action to be eligible for the additional funding.
“The response to our Tribal high-speed internet program demonstrated a critical need for improved connectivity on Tribal lands,” NTIA chief Alan Davidson said in a statement. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we’ll be able to award an additional billion dollars in grants in the very near future.”
Already, the NTIA has already made Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program awards totaling approximately $143 million. Earlier this week, in fact, the agency dished out grants totaling around $51 million to two Alaska Native entities to help provide fiber internet to 581 unserved households in the state.
As for what will happen to the remaining $1 billion in available IIJA funding, the NTIA said it will publish a notice of funding opportunity later this year seeking applications for support from those who missed the initial window.
Separately, the agency inked a new agreement with the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to coordinate their environmental permitting efforts for broadband projects on Tribal lands. The BIA is the agency authorized to grant access to rights-of-way on lands held in trust by the United States government.
“We are streamlining and creating efficiencies within the Federal Government to ensure Tribal communities get the resources they need quickly to close the digital divide on Tribal lands,” Davidson said of the move.