Bill to expand broadband access in tribal communities passes house

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Rep. Raul Ruiz's bill to expand broadband internet access for tribal communities in the Coachella Valley cleared the House of Representatives today.

The Tribal Broadband Deployment Act would direct the Federal Communications Commission to improve broadband access in tribal lands within 30 months, according to the office of Ruiz, who authored the bill.

The legislation also seeks an evaluation of broadband coverage in Indian country and solutions to address the "digital divide'' that Ruiz said exists in those communities.

"With expanding access to the internet, families, students, workers and businesses will be able to harness the power of their ideas and information to achieve their dreams and grow our local economy,'' Ruiz said in a speech on the House floor.

Ruiz cited an FCC Broadband Deployment Report indicating that 35.4 percent of Americans living on tribal lands lack access to high-speed internet, compared to 2.1 percent of Americans living in urban areas.

"For our communities and across our nation, this will be a game-changer,'' Ruiz said. "Throughout the Coachella Valley, the San Jacinto Mountain communities and the Pass regions of California, rural underdeveloped tribal lands are spread out among non-tribal communities, both of which are often lacking broadband internet.

"My bill will bring real resources and opportunities to these areas, improving connectivity and helping to close the digital divide in these historically underserved communities, both of which will benefit,'' he said. "Expanding internet access will help families, students, workers, and small businesses achieve their goals and grow our local economy.''

The bill now awaits approval in the Senate.

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