In Support of the Jemez–Zia Tribal Consortium’s E-Rate Broadband Project Petition for Waiver

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TITLE: In Support of the Jemez–Zia Tribal Consortium’s E-Rate Broadband Project Petition for Waiver

WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and

WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal governments; and

WHEREAS, the Jemez Pueblo Tribal Consortium (Tribal Consortium), which includes multiple schools and libraries providing their services to the residents of both Jemez Pueblo and Zia Pueblo, submitted an E-rate application to the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), for a tribally owned and operated project for the deployment and provision of state-of-the-art, fiber-based connectivity and services to these schools and libraries; and

WHEREAS, this application was submitted pursuant to newly created E-rate rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which now provide opportunities, previously impossibly expensive, for Tribal schools and libraries across the entire nation to receive similar types of Tribal self-provisioning and fiber deployments; and

WHEREAS, on June 30, 2017, the application of the Tribal Consortium received a $3.9 million funding commitment from USAC, which administers the Universal Service Fund programs under the regulations of the FCC; and

WHEREAS, the Tribal Consortium, through a purely administrative error, missed a deadline for filing the Funding Year 2016 FCC Form 500, and the associated special construction deadline extension request, which caused a hold on funding and rendered the Tribal Consortium unable to begin construction; and

WHEREAS, the Tribal Consortium has filed with the FCC a petition for waiver of the filing deadline, as the special construction must be completed by June 30, 2018, under the FCC’s rules; and

WHEREAS, the denial of this waiver petition could set a precedent for future Tribes and Tribal consortia who seek to utilize this program; and

WHEREAS, the granting of the Tribal Consortium’s petition for waiver would ultimately result in the profound, direct, and simply transformative benefits that truly robust broadband – which will be exponentially faster, less expensive, and Tribally self-provisioned – will bring to the schools, libraries, and communities of the Jemez Pueblo and Zia Pueblo; and

WHEREAS, Tribes that voluntarily coordinate with other Tribes in their regions provide innovative, Tribally driven and self-determined outcomes that bridge the digital divide that persists in Indian Country; and

WHEREAS, NCAI supports the efforts of Tribes that elect for themselves to enter into consortia or Tribal partnerships to bring high speed internet projects to their communities.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) strongly urges the FCC to grant the petition for waiver for the Tribal Consortium; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NCAI urges the FCC Office of Native Affairs and Policy to host regular consultations and meaningful engagement with Tribal E-rate applicants to successfully complete projects to bridge the digital divide in Indian Country, ensuring that changing administrative and clerical requirements are broadly disseminated and understood by Tribal applicants and do not hinder the deployment of high-speed internet to Tribal schools and libraries; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.