On June 16 and 17, staff from NTIA’s BroadbandUSA program provided further detail regarding the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This program intends to make $980 million in awards to Tribal governments to be used for broadband deployment on tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion.
Don Graves, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, and Doug Kinkoph, Associate Administrator of NTIA’s Office of Telecommunications and Information Applications (OTIA), introduced the program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), funding totals, past Tribal consultations, and NTIA’s intent to work with eligible applicants and release multiple iterations of resources, available on BroadbandUSA’s website.
- Margaret Gutierrez, National Tribal Government Liaison with the First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority and member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation
- Vanesscia Cresci, Broadband Program Specialist with NTIA and member of the Navajo Nation
- Crystal Hottowe, Broadband Program Specialist with NTIA and member of the Makah Tribe
- Gabe Montoya, Broadband Program Specialist with NTIA and member of the Pueblo of Pojoaque
- Adam Geisler, National Tribal Government Liaison with First Responder Network (FirstNet) Authority and member of the La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians
Informed by questions NTIA has received during consultations and through additional outreach, staff covered key definitions relevant to the program, eligibility across entities, projects, and costs, and provided detail regarding the application process and timeline.
Presenters emphasized, for example, that while no duplication is allowed, a Tribe and Tribal entity from the same Tribe can apply with appropriate coordination, and consortiums are eligible to apply. Infrastructure and non-infrastructure-related projects have certain distinct provisions, including a requirement for Tribal government consent documentation. Presenters provided a breakdown of the evaluation and scoring for both categories of project.
NTIA staff also covered the process for Tribal governments to self-certify whether an area within its own “Tribal Lands” is “unserved” (anything less than 25 Mbps/download and 3 Mbps/upload with low latency), in lieu of using non-Tribal data. No match or cost-sharing is required for the grant program, and the use of grant funds received under the program will not impact entities’ eligibility for other Federal broadband programs, such as those from U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Economic Development Administration, and United States Department of Agriculture.
A wide range of additional program provisions and answers to frequently asked questions were covered throughout the webinar, all of which can be found in webinar materials posted on BroadbandUSA's website.
Important dates and timelines:
- The application window is 90 days: June 3, 2021 through September 1, 2021
- Applications submitted through grants.gov or by electronic mail must be received no later than 11:59 p.m. PDT on September 1, 2021, and applications submitted by postal mail or courier service must be postmarked or show evidence of mailing no later than 11:59 p.m. PDT on September 1, 2021.
- Eligible entities are required to complete their projects within one year of their receipt of grant funds. However, for infrastructure projects, the Assistant Secretary may extend the award period if the entity provides certification of need.
Technical assistance will be offered through regional entities on a monthly basis throughout the application window. Additionally, prospective applicants can reach out to Adam Geisler (firstname.lastname@example.org) for programmatic inquiries, and Nicola Bell (Nicola.Bell@noaa.gov) for grant management inquiries.
NTIA is seeking qualified volunteers for the merit reviews, beginning in August and extending into October. See the BroadbandUSA website for more information about how to volunteer.
More information about the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, including answers to more frequently asked questions and requirements for grant applications, can be found on the program’s page on BroadbandUSA’s website. Also, please visit the website for:
- Video, slides, and transcript for this webinar, Tribal Broadband Connectivity Webinar, Sessions 3a and 3b;
- BroadbandUSA’s Tribal Nations page, housing resources relevant to Tribal governments;
- More information on upcoming sessions; and
- More information about all three of NTIA’s grant programs, including Notices of Funding Opportunity and Frequently Asked Questions, as it becomes available.