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Apply for Broadband Right-of-Way in Indian Country

The Bureau of Indian Affairs' Division of Real Estate Services reviews and processes applications for approval of rights-of-way and business leases for broadband development projects on individually owned Indian trust, Tribal trust, and restricted fee lands.

The Division of Real Estate Services (DRES) processes and reviews applications for rights-of-way (ROW) or business leases for broadband infrastructure development projects that are funded through federal infrastructure investment legislation and the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) available to Tribes. This includes funding from other Department of the Interior (DOI) federal agencies for ROW, permits, or other agencies’ authorizations for broadband development available to Tribes’ Tribal utilities. 

BIA has the delegated authority to review and approve rights-of-way and leases for broadband development on individually owned Indian trust land and restricted fee lands—ensuring that the required consent is received from American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes and/or individual landowners. 

There are specific exceptions that don’t require BIA approval, and DRES can help to identify those cases. 

With the unique nature of the ownership of Indian trust property, BIA must follow all laws and regulations for ROW under 25 CFR part 169 and and leases across Indian land under 25 CFR part 162 along with other federal laws and regulations.

What You Need

All applicants must complete the BIA ROW Application or BIA business lease application and provide required documentation for broadband development projects. 

If your application is determined to be incomplete, we will inform you and provide an explanation of what needs to be completed. You must then resubmit a completed version of your application. 

Eligibility 

Any Tribal utility and all federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes who are eligible to apply for broadband related ROWs or business leases to develop their broadband projects that may include both a ROW and a business lease depending on the project. 

Expedited Processing 

BIA recently issued a National Policy Memorandum (NPM-TRUS-40) to make the ROW application process for telecommunications projects funded under the TBCP submitted by Tribal utilities be more efficient and consistent. 

The following procedures were implemented to simplify the processing of broadband ROW applications that are part of, or related to, broadband infrastructure: 

  • For applications for Indian lands where a Tribe owns 100% of the tract, a Tribe or Tribal utility doesn’t need BIA approval for ROW, but will be required to be recorded with Land Titles and Records Office (LTRO) after approval. However, if an applicant is a third party, a Tribe may exercise all regulatory permissions (e.g., negotiating for any payment amount and waiving the bond and insurance requirements). If approved, BIA will issue one grant for all tracts traversed by the ROW. 
  • For applications for allotted lands, where a Tribe, Tribal utility, or a third party is the applicant, individual Indian owners may negotiate for any payment amount and may waive the valuation requirement. The ROW may then be approved for the negotiated amount. BIA will determine the number of individual Indian landowners, and undivided interests in, a fractionated tract of Indian trust land.
  • For applications for multiple tracts of lands, applicants may submit one application for multiple contiguous tracts. If approved, BIA will issue one grant for all tracts traversed by the ROW for the broadband project.

Fees

Your BIA Regional Office and/or Agency Office may require an administrative fee to apply. DRES and BIA are not responsible for application preparation.

How to Apply

By Mail

Applicants are required to submit completed application packages via postal mail to the local BIA office where the broadband project will be located.  Applicants are encouraged to discuss the broadband project details early on at the beginning of the project with the BIA’s realty staff to be able to assist and provide technical guidance on the ROW and business lease processes. 

Steps

  1. Download and complete the BIA ROW Application form. 
  2. Gather the required documentation listed on the second page of the form. 
  3. Submit your application form and documentation to the local BIA Regional Office and/or Agency Office with jurisdiction over the land where the broadband project is located.

Next Steps

Applicants will receive an acknowledgement letter no more than five business days after their application is received and reviewed by BIA.

To be considered a complete application, you must submit all required supporting required documents and materials necessary for your application. If your application is incomplete, we’ll inform you and provide an explanation of what’s missing. You must then resubmit a complete version of your application. 

Broadband application approval must occur immediately upon making the determination that the application is complete.

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