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Federal government awards $500K to expand high-speed internet access on tribal lands

The federal funding is for creating and implementing digital inclusion, distance learning, and telehealth and telework programs for tribal members.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Connections of Internet cables with servers. Server date centers.

MAINE, USA — The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced on Wednesday that a $500,000 grant from the Internet for All initiative was awarded to the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township in Maine.

The funds are made available from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law ($2 billion) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 ($980 million), according to Wednesday's release. 

In a Wednesday release, the NTIA said the funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would assist the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township in creating and implementing digital inclusion, distance learning, and telehealth and telework programs for the benefit of their tribal members.

The award is part of the Biden administration’s effort to connect everyone in America to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service. Maine Gov. Janet Mills has also said her goal is for a high-speed internet connection to be available to everyone in Maine by the end of 2024.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to connecting all Tribal communities to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “The investments we announced today are a crucial step in closing the digital divide in Indian country.”

The NTIA said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce April McClain-Delaney met with Passamaquoddy Tribe - Indian Township Chief William Nicholas last week in Waterville to celebrate the award.

"We understand that reliable internet is no longer a luxury and is now an essential utility. This award is the first step in optimizing utilization of our new fiber infrastructure," Nicholas said in Wednesday's release. "We are excited to work toward expanded education, health care, and workforce development opportunities for our community and ensuring that Passamaquoddy people have access to affordable, adequate internet."

The NTIA said an additional Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for $1 billion in funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would be announced in the coming months. The NTIA held three tribal consultations with tribal leaders to solicit their input on the upcoming NOFO.

“From spurring economic development and employment opportunities to supporting telemedicine and education, access to affordable, high-speed Internet is critical to the vitality of rural communities,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement Friday. “This investment from the bipartisan infrastructure law will help more members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe to reap the benefits of broadband. We are pleased to see the continued impact of this bipartisan legislation to help close the digital divide and support Maine’s Tribal communities.”

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