NEW Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit Now Available

BroadbandUSA reports…

A successful broadband project begins with a broadband plan, one that lays out the goals and path forward to enhance internet access and meaningful use within a target area or community. But there are many moving pieces involved in creating a broadband plan. BroadbandUSA’s Tribal Broadband Planning Toolkit  aims to simplify the process for tribes. It provides the guidance, knowledge, and resources to design, implement, and then execute a broadband plan in tribal communities.
While this toolkit can be used at any time and for any broadband planning purpose – for NTIA or other programs – it comes at an especially opportune time: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) allocated an additional $2 billion and relaxed some of the program requirements to the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.
Made up of seven worksheets, this Toolkit offers insights, interactive tools, and links to technical assistance resources for every stage of the broadband planning journey. While we understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting a broadband plan, we hope that this Toolkit provides foundational resources to get you started.

NDIA introduces new National Digital Navigator Corps!

Yesterday at the Net Inclusion conference NDIA announced

We’re Advancing Digital Equity with a Multi-Year Commitment to Rural & Tribal Communities That Will Impact Thousands
Over four years, this $10 million grant and the National Digital Navigator Corps will have a wide impact on the ground in rural and Tribal communities and a long-lasting impact on digital inclusion:
We will be equipped to formalize the Digital Navigator model.

We will gain insight from data collection with partner sites.

AMERIND will gain a staff member dedicated to digital equity in Tribal lands.

Assets will be publicly available to expand and scale Digital Navigator work nationwide.

USDA specific funds for Tribal and Rural communities

Public Knowledge reports

Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) announced more than $1 billion in funding to promote meaningful broadband access in rural, Tribal, and socially vulnerable communities. This program has the potential to deliver robust, affordable broadband to rural and Tribal communities that is essential to their civic, economic, and educational livelihoods. The program will offer eligible recipients a mix of grants, grants and loans combined, and just loans to deploy truly robust broadband networks (capable of 100/100 Mbps upload/download broadband speeds) to eligible communities. Much of what is in the ReConnect program is consistent with Public Knowledge’s advocacy on the infrastructure bill pending before Congress, so we are excited to see the USDA’s RUS step up to deliver meaningful broadband access to rural and tribal communities.

What do we love about this program? There is a lot to love here. Specifically, in order to ensure that our most vulnerable communities, including Tribal areas, are able to benefit from this opportunity, the RUS has set aside $350 million in grant funding for Tribal governments and “socially vulnerable communities” to build 100/100 Mbps networks to their communities.

The scoring is particularly interesting…

Moreover, Public Knowledge is very excited about the evaluation criteria that will be used to award funding. Projects will be ranked and awarded funding based on criteria that includes points for addressing affordability (20 points), serving higher poverty areas (20 points), committing to net neutrality (10 points), and offering wholesale broadband service (10 points).

Lower Sioux Indian Community Broadband Profile: 90 percent access to 100/20

Code: Yellow
Population: 134
(See Blandin Foundation interactive map)

Fond du Lac Reservation has seen some success in deploying better broadband in the last year. They went from 77 percent access to speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up to 90 percent; and access to 25/3 has remained at 100 percent.

This is one of the few communities where there is a striking difference between the fixed, non-mobile broadband and wireline. The only have 68.62 percent access to wireless; although that is to 100/20 speeds.

Access to Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband
Name %Broadband (25/3) 2021 %Broadband (25/3) 2019 %Broadband (100/20) 2021 %Broadband (100/20) 2019
Lower Sioux 100 100 90.24 77.12

In April 2017, Mediacom announced that they upgraded their customers on the Lower Sioux Reservation to their Gig access. It seems that is reflected in the map but that almost 10 percent of the reservation’s households are not in Mediacom territory.

They will likely need concerted effort to get the rest of the community better broadband. One opportunity might come from Lead for America, a group of fellows working in rural areas to promote better broadband. Vanessa Goodthunder, Executive Director of Caƞṡayapi Waḳaƞyeża Owayawa Oṭi – Lower Sioux Early Head Start and Head Start, is on the broadband of Lead for America so the connection is there.

Lower Sioux Indian Community
(get 2020 map)

Map Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

I am doing the annual look at broadband in tribal areas – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Fond du Lac Reservation Broadband Profile: 66 percent access to 100/20

Code: Green
Population: 1530
(See Blandin Foundation interactive map)

Fond du Lac Reservation has seen some success in deploying better broadband in the last year. They went from almost 20 percent access to speeds of 100 Mbps down and 20 up to 66 percent; and access to 25/3 went from almost 31 percent to almost 84.

Access to Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband
Name %Broadband (25/3) 2021 %Broadband (25/3) 2019 %Broadband (100/20) 2021 %Broadband (100/20) 2019
Fond du Lac Res 83.81 30.96 66.4 19.5

Fond du Lac has been working on better broadband since 2006, often while working with the Blandin Foundation on programs to improve broadband use. In 2018, they set out to provide fiber-to-home (FTTH)  to more than 1,800 homes, and anyone who lives in the network’s roughly 120-square mile service area, by 2020 — both band members and non-members alike using funding from the USDA. (There are 1530 households on Fond du Lac, according to 2010 Census.) The network went live in 2019 and continues to expand.

In 2020, the Band received a $602,916 MN Border to Border grant to help upgrade its infrastructure to serve 37 new households and 99 underserved customers, including properties on the reservation, western Cloquet and Perch Lake Township. That deployment would not yet be reflected in the maps or data on the reservation.

The tribe is making continuous investment and improvement on the broadband network with a focus on FTTH.

Fond du Lac
(get 2020 map)

Map Key:

  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

I am doing the annual look at broadband in tribal areas – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

Bois Forte Reservation Broadband Profile: No access to 100/20

Code: Yellow
Population: 294
(See Blandin Foundation interactive map)

Bois Forte Reservation has seen an increase in broadband access of 25 Mbps down and 3 up since last mapping. They have seen nothing in access to 100/20.

Access to Fixed, Non-Mobile Broadband
Name %Broadband (25/3) 2021 %Broadband (25/3) 2019 %Broadband (100/20) 2021 %Broadband (100/20) 2019
Bois Forte Reservation


20.12 0


Bois Forte has been working on better broadband through the IRBC program with IRRR and the Blandin Foundation as part of the Grizzlies, which include Bois Forte, Orr and Cook. Through that program, Bois Forte Tribal Government received Border-to-Border Broadband grant funding to connect ten unserved and 468 underserved locations throughout four sectors of the Bois Forte Reservation. Those upgrade must not yet show up on the maps and data. But it will make a difference and should means an increase in access to 100/20 speeds. 

Through IRBC, the community has also been making wireless available in public places around the community (learn more) it and they are working on programming to encourage use, such as a youth sports website.

Normally I would be concerned to see improvement to adequate access because it can dull the drive for better broadband for all in the long run and access to 25/3 will likely not meet long term needs, especially if residents stay or return to work, school and healthcare access online. Here I’m optimistic that the work with the Blandin Foundation will keep people focused and that the next mapping will highlight the impact of the 2020 Border to Border grant.

(get 2020 map)


  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

I am doing the annual look at broadband in tribal areas – based on maps from the Office of Broadband Development and news gathered from the last year. I’m looking at progress toward the 2022 (25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up) and 2026 (100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up) and will code each:

  • Red (yikes)
  • Yellow (warning)
  • Green (good shape)

MN Tribal broadband maps are out – compare 2019 to 2020 coverage

I recently finished the MN County Broadband profiles – 87 mini reports on what’s happening in each county. I’ve been keep an eye out for an opportunity to update the profiles for MN tribal communities as well. The maps from the Office of Broadband Development are out, which show the coverage (served/underserved/unserved) but the numbers aren’t. From a macro level it’s hard to compare progress or gauge success without the numbers. When the numbers come out I’ll do a deeper dive, in the meantime I thought it might be interesting to at least see the maps from 2019 and 2020 for each tribal area. Side by side we can make some assessments in each community.


  • Served: Green
  • Underserved: Purple
  • Unserved: Pink

Bois Forte Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Fond du Lac
(get 2020 map)

Grand Portage Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Leech Lake Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Lower Sioux Indian Community
(get 2020 map)

Mille Lacs Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Prairie Island Indian Community
(get 2020 map)

Red Lake Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community
(get 2020 map)

Upper Sioux Community
(get 2020 map)

White Earth Reservation
(get 2020 map)

Initiative Foundation funds Mille Lacs Tribal Economy Satellite Broadband Study

St Cloud Times reports

The Initiative Foundation and its partner funds provided grants worth more than $314,000 during the second quarter of 2021, with a focus on childhood education.

One grant went for a broadband study…

Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures – Mille Lacs Tribal Economy Satellite Broadband Study: $6,670 goes toward a 12-month case study on broadband services and experiences among the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe districts.

I am looking forward to the results.

Enbridge gives broadband grant to Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools (Mahomen County)

KFGO reports

Enbridge Energy, the Canadian company that owns the controversial Line 3 pipeline replacement project in northern Minnesota, has donated $366,000 to the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community Schools to subsidize internet access for low income families.

Enbridge spokesperson Julie Kellner says the grant will provide “a combination of broadband and fiber infrastructure, and fund other services that will help students connect to internet resources and thrive in remote learning environments.”

Kellner says the grant will also provide services for students in the Mahomen-Naytahwaush school district.  Enbridge plans to present a check Thursday morning.

EVENTS July 28-29: Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Webinars

From BroadbandUSA,,,

Don’t Miss Our Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Webinars on July 28 and July 29!

This week, join the NTIA team to learn more about our Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Pilot Program, a $268 million grant program to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) for the purchase of broadband internet access service and eligible equipment or to hire and train information technology personnel.

What will I learn in the webinars?

Join our informative webinars on July 28 and July 29 to learn more about CMC Pilot Program, meet the CMC project team, receive important information and resources related to the upcoming grant application, hear about our CMC Anchor Community Eligibility Dashboard update, and view a demo of our new Indicators of Broadband Need map. The material will be repeated on both days and at the conclusion of the webinar, NTIA staff will host a Q&A session for attendees.

How do I register?
*Reg for July 28
*Reg for July 29


Turtle Island Communications Inc. company brings broadband Indian Country

The Circle posts an article highlighting Turtle Island Communications Inc. and its founders, Madonna Peltier Yawakie and her husband Melvin (Mel) Yawakie.  Madonna was on the Blandin Broadband Strategy Broadband for many years. She and Mel attended several Fall broadband conferences. I have always been impressed and amazed at their depth of knowledge in building broadband. I have worked most with Madonna, who seems to understand every financial opportunity and every policy implication for tribal communities. I have seen her lift the flag again and again to make sure that tribal areas are seen, mapped and subsequently wired.

I’m pleased to share an abridged version of the article, starting with the basics…

For Madonna Peltier Yawakie and her husband Melvin (Mel) Yawakie, it is practically a meaningless question. But it does strengthen public awareness of the important work their Turtle Island Communications Inc. company does in Indian Country.

The background…

She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota. He is Pueblo Zuni from the Southwest. Both grew up in families where calling a relative a few miles away could be an expensive long distance telephone call.

Their roles and start in broadband…

“You don’t just wake up one day and say, “Let’s start a business,” Madonna said. “We’ve seen the need for most of our lives.”

Both had extensive telecommunications backgrounds and were painfully aware of disparities between the communities their prior employers served with modern communications and what was available in their home communities. They both had proper educational backgrounds to step in and serve Native American tribes.

Madonna said she thought she would want to work on economic development for tribes when she went off to college. Following that objective, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from North Dakota State University (NDSU).

She serves as president of the family-owned company which allows her to continue her original goal although from a highly skilled, technical perspective.

Mel is vice president of the company and heads engineering, planning, construction and project management. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from NDSU, and an Associate degree in Electronic Technology from what is now Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan.

In that role, he leads in planning, designing and implementing both wireline services and wireless telecommunication systems for the tribally owned broadband, high-speed communications systems.

The Yawakies started TICOM exactly 20 years ago. Their first big project was for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas.

This became a learning experience in itself, Madonna said.

Biden Administration makes $1 billion in grants available for broadband on tribal lands

The Verge reports

The Biden administration will make $1 billion in grants available to expand broadband access and adoption on tribal lands, Vice President Kamala Harris announced at the White House Thursday. The funds, from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will be made to eligible Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian entities for broadband deployment, to support digital inclusion, workforce development, telehealth, and distance learning.

Get more info..

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, part of the coronavirus relief package Congress passed in December, will fund programs to help make broadband more affordable for tribal areas to help fund the digital divide, the Commerce Department said.

NTIA will be holding webinars to inform the public about the grants. The next Tribal Broadband Connectivity webinars will be held on June 16th and 17th.

BroadbandUSA Announcements – April Webinars – NTIA Grants Webinar Series Home

The NTIA is hosting a series of webinars

Join NTIA for a webinar series starting in April 2021 focused on the three new broadband grant programs authorized and funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: the Broadband Infrastructure Program, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and the Connecting Minority Communities Program. These webinars are designed to help prospective applicants understand the grant programs and to assist applicants to prepare high quality grant applications.

Please visit the BroadbandUSA website for more information, registration, and updates.

NTIA Grans Webinar Series Schedule


Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grants Program (Tribal)

Register here for April 21st Webinar

Register here for April 22nd Webinar


Register Here for May 19th Webinar

Register Here for May 20th Webinar

Recent report on history and status of broadband in tribal areas (including Fond du Lac in MN)

The Institute for Local Self Reliance recently released a report by H. Trostle on the history and status of broadband in tribal areas: Building Indigenous Future Zones: Four Tribal Broadband Case Studies. They look at four networks built in tribal areas including:

  • Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Red Spectrum Communications in Idaho
  • Nez Perce Tribe Department of Technology Services (wireless and fiber) in Idaho
  • Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe’s Aaniin Fiber Services in Minnesota
  • St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Mohawk Network in New York

They found five key lessons:

  1. Improve Access to Capital
  2. Avoid Single-Purpose Funding
  3. Recognize the Preparation Needed to Take Advantage of Opportunities
  4. Tribal Employment Rights Offices Are a Value-Add
  5. Respect Native Nations’ Right to Spectrum

Here’s the portion on Minnesota’s Fond du Lac project, including partnership prjects with the Blandin Foundation…

Aaniin was built through years of careful research and feasibility studies. Jason Hollinday, the Director of Planning at Fond du Lac Planning Division, explained how the Fond du Lac Band approached the problem of getting high-speed Internet service throughout their communities.

In 2006, they started to compare wireless and hardwired network types, such as cable and fiber. The original plan called for ten wireless towers throughout the reservation to deliver Internet service to people’s homes. There were a number of issues with this plan, however, one of which was geography. Northern Minnesota has many hills and forests, and the wireless technology at the time was not going to be able to penetrate to many remote areas. It was, however, fairly inexpensive, and Fond du Lac moved forward with seeking grants for the project. They weren’t funded and Hollinday says they were told that the project was “economically infeasible.”

Undaunted, they changed tactics and considered alternatives, allowing them to be prepared when the market changed drastically in 2010. The price of fiber and equipment for a Fiberto-the-Home network fell enough to make a network feasible on paper. They worked with the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota and pursued grants through the USDA.

Community members, however, needed Internet service faster than the fiber network was likely to be built. The Fond du Lac Band already had an institutional network between government buildings. They added 13 wireless hotspots to several of these buildings in 2013. The hotspots have a range of about ¼ mile, and still serve as a stop-gap measure for community members without reliable Internet service at home.

In 2015, they were finally awarded a USDA Community Connect Grant. Two Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grants were later approved as well and one Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Indian Community Development Block Grant. In total, it was about $9 million in grants, and the Fond du Lac Band matched half that amount with $4.5 million in cash on hand. They had secured all the funding needed to build out a next-generation network.

Starting out, some of the grants required them to build to areas without Internet service of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload. Unserved areas were prioritized. Later grants supported building the network to areas without 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. This enabled the Fond du Lac band to reach the rest of the reservation. The Blandin Foundation had assisted with community outreach about the project. In a series of public meetings, community members talked about what they would like to do with the Internet service. Hollinday described a little bit of doubt from some members, such as “Well we’d never get that here, but if we did have it…,” because the project sometimes seemed too good to be true.

The network went live in Fall 2019. The network, however, continues to expand across the reservation, connecting more people. People are still learning all the capabilities of the Internet service. Since 2014, Fond du Lac has offered a summer camp for teens to create smartphone and iPad apps. Each student creates an app and is given an iPad to take home. The program also supports cultural knowledge. For instance, some of the apps from 2014 went into detail about beading, plants, and the Ojibwe language.15 The possibility of expanding outside of the reservation boundaries has been considered, but the focus right now is on making sure all community members have access to a reliable connection. Using gaming money and possibly further grants to build a fiber network in nearby areas could create a long-term diversified revenue stream for the community.

National Congress of American Indians outlines specific broadband recommendations for Biden Administration

The National Congress of American Indians of the United States have released recommendations for the Biden Administration to help the optimize the “opportunity to make meaningful advancements in the social and economic well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives.” There are 25 areas of focus, each with background and recommendations. Broadband is included; they start with the description of need…

Tribal communities are disproportionately unserved or underserved when it comes to access to high-speed internet. According to a 2019 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report, individuals residing on tribal lands are nearly 4.5 times as likely to lack any terrestrial broadband internet access as those on non-tribal lands. Even when examining fixed broadband deployment at speeds lower than the FCC’s definition of “broadband,” 25 percent of homes on tribal lands have no wired option for 10/1 Mbps service. By contrast, only 6 percent of homes on non-tribal lands lack coverage by any wired provider. Further, the Government Accountability Office and FCC agree that this available data overstates the extent of broadband access on tribal lands, meaning the true extent of the digital divide in Indian Country is even worse than FCC reports indicate.

A top priority is a Tribal Broadband Fund…

Congress must create a Tribal Broadband Fund in order to empower new market opportunities and direct spending in Indian Country for its highest and best purpose. In order to address the digital divide in Indian Country, Congress must also create an interagency committee with representation from the FCC’s Wireless and Wireline Bureaus, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, DOC’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and DOI’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to report on how to best coordinate federal resources from the various agencies to achieve broadband connectivity in Indian Country. This recommendation is consistent with the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, which recommends that “Congress should consider establishing a Tribal Broadband Fund to support sustainable broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands, and all federal agencies that upgrade connectivity on tribal lands should coordinate such upgrades with Tribal governments and the Tribal Broadband Fund grant-making process.”

There are thoughtful and detailed recommendations.

Recommend actions for the first 100 days:

  • Establish the Office of Native Affairs and Policy as an independent office at the FCC.
  • Include a permanent, dedicated budget request of $2 million in the FCC’s Annual Budget Request to Congress for FCC-ONAP to ensure the FCC’s commitment to consult with Tribal Nations is preserved and exercised.
  • Recommit to and further develop the FCC’s Consultation, Training, and Workshops.

Agency recommendations:

Federal Communications Commission

  • Establish a Tribal Broadband Fund within the Universal Service Fund (USF).
  • Repeal all “rurality” restrictions on FCC proceedings of tribal interest.
  • Increase Tribal Nations’ access to spectrum licenses.
  • Establish a “Tribal Priority” for E-rate funding.
  • Request Congress and the Administration to advocate for statutory changes to recognize tribal authority to designate what constitutes a “library” on tribal lands.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

  • Coordinate with the FCC to participate in its tribal consultation, training, and workshop engagement with Indian Country.
  • USDA should work with Congress to create “set-asides” in USDA programs for tribal broadband deployment, and expand the Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) Provisions across the programs of Rural Development.
  • USDA should create “highest grant” attention and prioritizations for tribal applications in the Department’s Substantially Underserved Trust Areas (SUTA) Provisions within its programs.

U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC)

  • Make the “Native American Affairs Liaison” position permanent and establish an Office of Native Affairs and Policy to work directly with the Secretary of Commerce.

Recommendations for Administration

  • Support and preserve the ongoing work and directives of the White House Broadband Opportunity Council.
  • Further coordination between the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Education (ED).