US Senate News:
Source: US Senator for New Mexico Ben Ray Luján
Heinrich, Luján Applaud FCC Decision To Increase Broadband Access For Tribal Communities
The Federal Communications Commission’s effort to make Tribal Libraries eligible for support through the E-Rate program mirrors provisions in Senators Heinrich and Luján’s Tribal Connect Act
WASHINGTON (Oct. 1, 2021) – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) are applauding Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s decision to update a definition of library and clarify that Tribal libraries are eligible for support through the E-Rate Program. This FCC rule change will help bring high-speed broadband to underserved libraries and anchor institutions on Tribal lands.
Senators Heinrich and Luján have been leading the charge to increase broadband access for Tribal communities with their bipartisan, bicameral Tribal Connect Act. This legislation would amended current E-rate eligibility requirements to allow more tribal libraries to apply for the program and would establish a pilot program to invest in broadband access for Tribal communities without libraries. The bill also allows Tribal College and University libraries to become eligible for E-rate support.
“An alarming percentage of rural tribal communities in New Mexico lack access to broadband internet, which means less access to educational, health, and career-related resources,” said Heinrich. “That’s why I’ve been fighting for years to pass legislation to invest in broadband connectivity in Indian Country so that all of our students and children can compete on an even playing field and learn the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. I applaud FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel for her actions to update the rulebook to connect more tribes to the E-rate program. Together, we can strengthen broadband across rural New Mexico to improve education and access to public health resources, and boost our economy.”
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribal communities already faced a digital divide that undermined their ability to learn, work, and access economic opportunities. Add a public health emergency, and all of this has only exacerbated these disparities,” said Luján. “I applaud Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s leadership and the FCC’s actions that will help bring high-speed broadband to Tribal communities, that will support their libraries and anchor institutions that have been long been underserved.”