Government Relations Update June 2021

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Tribal Broadband Program Funding Becomes Available

On June 3, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the availability of $980 million of grant funding for its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This opportunity aims to expand access to and adoption of broadband service on Tribal Land while also providing funding for programs that promote the use of broadband to access remote learning, telework, or telehealth resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. The official Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) provides an overview of the requirements of the program.  

Eligible entities include Tribal Governments, Tribal Colleges and Universities, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on behalf of the Native Hawaiian Community (including Native Hawaiian Education Programs), Tribal organizations, and Alaskan Native Corporations.

Applications are due by September 1. Additional information, including the application portal, can be found here.

Rules for Minority Community Broadband Pilot Released

NTIA released its Final Rule regarding the structure of the Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program on June 15. This funding opportunity will provide $268 million for expanding broadband access to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). The rule provides information about eligibility criteria, application requirements, eligible uses for grant funds, and the approval and awards process. While this announcement does not provide a start or end date for the acceptance of applications, NTIA has indicated that this information will be coming soon in a formal NOFO.

FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund Launched

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the launch of its Emergency Connectivity Fund on June 29. This $7.17 billion program administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) will provide funding to enable schools and libraries to purchase devices and connectivity for students, school staff, and library patrons for the 2021-2022 school year.  Applications will be accepted until August 13.  Additional information regarding the program, including how to apply, can be found here.  

Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework Agreement Reached

On June 24, the Administration announced it had reached an agreement with a bipartisan group of 20 Senators to a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure framework that would provide a basis for physical infrastructure legislation that could pass Congress with the support of both parties. The plan would provide nearly $600 billion of new spending, with the remainder of the funds being repurposed from previously passed legislation. The agreement would provide $65 billion for broadband, though little information has been released about the details of the agreement. Senators and their staffs are still working to develop draft legislation based on the framework.