First Nations Development Institute
First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) has received a $50,000 grant from the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation for a project that aims to help bridge the “digital divide” in Native American communities. Tribal lands and rural areas lag far behind the rest of the country in accessing fixed and mobile broadband, and so are denied the economic, educational, government services, civic participation, and health care opportunities available elsewhere.
In particular, First Nations will launch its “Resources to Bridge the Digital Divide in Indian Country” project that will link rural Native American communities to financial and technical resources that will allow them to build their telecommunications infrastructure to access needed broadband services. The "digital divide" in Indian Country refers to the gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern information and communications technology, and those that don't or have restricted access. This technology can include the telephone, television, personal computers and the internet.
Despite the ubiquity of broadband access in the United States, according to a 2016 report from the Federal Communications Commission, 41% of residents on tribal lands lack access to fixed broadband, compared with 10% in the rest of the United States. As the FCC report noted, 10% of U.S. citizens lack broadband access but 68% of Native people who live in rural areas do not have broadband access. Access is not just limited in rural areas, approximately 15% of Native people living in urban areas lack broadband access. In fact, access to broadband among Native Americans is the lowest of all racial groups in the U.S. The digital divide in Native communities is often perpetuated by complex legal relationships between Native nations, state governments and private business and also lack of resources that focus on developing broadband infrastructure in local communities.
To tackle the funding issue associated with developing broadband infrastructure in local communities, First Nations will develop and widely disseminate a resource guide highlighting grants, loans and technical assistance to build rural telecommunications infrastructure and access to broadband. The guide will mainly highlight federal resources but also highlight private or foundation resources as possible. It will be geared toward tribes and Native nonprofit organizations and will highlight resources, including information on applicant eligibility, types of support offered, and weblink referrals.
A limited number of guides will be printed and available at no cost. It also will be available to tribes, Native organizations and Native businesses as a free download from the First Nations website.
This grant from the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation is in recognition of Comcast’s commitment to the communities where its customers and employees live and work. Since its founding in 1999, the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation has distributed more than $163 million in cash support of programs implemented locally in Comcast communities.
About First Nations Development Institute
For 38 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States.
For more information, visit www.firstnations.org.