Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - On Thursday, Peltola was notified that an additional $135.9 million in federal broadband grants is heading to Alaska.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCO) announced the four grants Thursday which include broadband programs in Western, Southcentral, and Southeastern Alaska.
"The coronavirus pandemic has exposed exactly how vital broadband connectivity is in our modern world," said Peltola. "A bridge to less onerous medical visits and greater educational and job opportunities, affordable, consistent broadband access has become more and more essential to community growth and well-being. With the funding announced today by NTIA through the TBCP, households across Alaska will soon be able to utilize this critical resource."
Peltola said she looks forward to seeing more and more communities connected as the funding is disbursed.
"I remain eager to work with my congressional colleagues, our rural communities, and telecom providers to ensure every Alaskan receives the broadband access they deserve, regardless of where they live," she said.
NANA Regional Corporation was awarded $68.5 million. Their project proposes to install fiber directly connecting 1,379 unserved Native American households, 451 businesses, and 212 anchor institutions, such as libraries and schools, with 1 Gbps symmetrical service.
Kenaitze Indian Tribe (IRA) was awarded $7 million. Their project proposes to install fiber directly connecting 1,055 unserved Native American households of which 45% are below the 150% poverty line with qualifying broadband service at speeds up to 336/36 Mbps.
Metlakatla Power and Light were awarded $10.5 million. Their project proposes to install fiber directly connecting 586 unserved Native American households, as well as businesses and government entities, with fiber to the home service of 1Gbps symmetrical.
Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska was awarded $49.9 million. Their project proposes to install fixed wireless and deploy Low-Earth Orbiting Satellite-enabled service to directly connect 14,032 unserved Native American households with qualifying broadband service of no less than 25/3Mbps for all with options up to 100Mbps symmetrical speeds, where available.
The $980 million TBCP is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and provides grants to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entities to create affordable, reliable, high-speed internet.
The overall goal of the program is to improve healthcare, workforce development, education, and housing in tribal communities.
This is done by deploying broadband infrastructure, supporting digital inclusion to reduce the digital divide, and establishing affordable programs.
The region of Alaska has some of the nation's most costly broadband prices.
It is estimated that over 7% of Southeast Alaska's population (4,800 residents or 1,100 households) have no internet and 8.9% (2,776) of households have an income below 150% of the federal poverty level.
President of Tlingit & Haida, Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson talked about receiving the grant.
"If you care about advancing our region's economy, supporting community sustainability, and ensuring our children have educational opportunities they deserve, we all need to stand behind closing the digital divide in Southeast Alaska. Access to high-speed broadband is a necessity to everyday life and we cannot accept the disparity in access and affordability anymore. The internet, or lack thereof, has a direct impact on community growth and success. Tlingit & Haida is committed to ensuring our communities and people are not left behind. This funding will help us build out the broadband infrastructure needed to achieve that and provide access to affordable qualifying broadband services to over 20 communities in our region."
Tlingit & Haida's TBCP grant application was submitted under a consortium with seven partnering federally recognized tribal entities in Southeast Alaska. The grant award will be used for several projects through the Tribe's broadband business enterprise, Tidal Network, that expands broadband deployment in the region and provides more affordable qualifying broadband services. Other wireless spectrum bands and low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites will also be used to provide service where a 2.5 GHz Educational Broadband Service license is not available.
As part of the grant award, T&H will also create a voucher program with existing service providers to provide access to affordable qualifying broadband services to 100% of unserved households and discounted subscriber rates to households with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty annual income threshold.
NTIA received more than 280 TBCP grant applications during the application window which closed on September 1st, 2021. In total, more than $380 million in TBCP funds have been awarded to 21 Alaska tribal governments or entities for broadband projects that fall under the categories of adoption and use, infrastructure deployment, planning, feasibility, and sustainability studies.