WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the House passed H.R. 1644, the “Save the Internet Act,” which included an amendment introduced by Rep. Greg Stanton to help promote accessible and affordable broadband internet service on tribal land.
The Save the Internet Act, if signed into law, would reverse the repeal by President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of net neutrality protections. The bill outlines three net neutrality principles: no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization. It also restores the FCC’s authority to support funding of broadband access and deployment, especially in rural communities.
Stanton’s amendment directs the FCC Chairman to engage with and collect feedback and data from tribal stakeholders and providers of broadband internet to evaluate their access.
“Access to high-speed internet is essential in today’s economy—it’s a key component to our nation’s innovation infrastructure,” Stanton said during his remarks on the House Floor. “Yet on tribal lands across this country, a digital divide exists, and we have to work to close it.”
According to an estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, only 53 percent of Native Americans living on tribal lands have access to high-speed internet service compared to 82 percent of all households nationally.
A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined how the FCC collects, validates and uses data on broadband availability. It found that the FCC overstates the availability of broadband internet service on tribal lands and that the digital divide is greater than many originally thought. [Source: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-18-630]
“These overstatements limit FCC and tribal users’ ability to target broadband funding to tribal lands,” the GAO concluded.
The FCC even categorized communities as broadband “accessible” when those areas don’t have the infrastructure needed to connect homes to a service provider’s network.
“Part of the challenge in the lack of reliable data stems from the lack of meaningful consultation and engagement with tribal nations,” Stanton said. “It’s more than just checking a box—it’s important for the FCC to not only listen to tribes, but to actively engage and learn from them.”
Stanton co-sponsored H.R. 1644.