The FCC has opened a Tribal Priority Broadband window for new spectrum licenses over rural tribal lands. Our rural homestead lands are considered tribal lands for the purposes of this amazing opportunity! There are 54 homestead eligible areas, among the hundreds of tribal areas on the continent and Alaska that are eligible for these new 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses. These licenses can play an important role in the deployment of broadband and other advanced communication services over our lands and for our people.
Although this window can result in the acquisition of licenses at no cost, there are requirements that will necessitate resources and expertise, for example, a two-year and five-year buildout timeline to deploy the spectrum in service to trust land residents.
SCHHA has been tracking this opportunity since last year, along with several of our tribal colleagues, especially since the FCC approved the Tribal Priority Broadband window in July 2019. The FCC officially opened the window in February 2020 and will close it in August 2020. This is an incredible opportunity for HHCA beneficiaries, for SCHHA, and for any homestead association in an eligible area, to contemplate controlling a slice of spectrum to serve our own people, on our own lands.
This month, the SCHHA Governing Council voted to identify areas, from among the eligible homestead areas identified by the FCC, to apply for spectrum licenses. Under the federal rules for this program, only federally recognized tribes are automatically eligible to apply. An application for our trust lands will require a spectrum application plus a waiver to be deemed eligible as an applicant.
As SCHHA works through the application requirements in the months ahead and identifies the buildout resources necessary to meet the terms of the FCC Tribal Priority Broadband window, we invite any homestead association that would like to be informed about our potential application to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s clear from the rules in place for the program that multiple spectrum applications for the same land area are discouraged, since if that happens, the two or more eligible applicants will be required to bid against one another for the license.
This is another great opportunity to exercise our collective self-determination on the homesteads. As a 33-year-old statewide beneficiary organization registered with the Department of Interior, we welcome the mana‘o of other homestead associations interested in this telecommunication space! Let’s explore our possibilities.