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The Importance of Tribal Infrastructure

The lack of physical infrastructure is a barrier to economic development for some American Indian and Alaska Native communities.

Roads, broadband, energy resources are critical to tribal economies. 

Indian Affairs and our partners at other federal agencies are committed to improving and maintaining tribal infrastructure to provide increased public safety, security and economic development opportunities in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.

What Counts as Infrastructure?

Infrastructure projects continue to grow in scope and complexity and can include projects related to: 

  • Surface transportation (e.g., highway, rail, and transit projects) 
  • Broadband internet
  • Renewable energy generation
  • Electricity transmission
  • Airport capital improvement
  • Ports and waterways
  • Oil or gas pipelines

The federal government often plays a role in reviewing these projects, which often require federal funding, permits, or other authorizations and must adhere to federal laws and regulations.

Broadband

National Tribal Broadband Strategy 

Indian Affairs’ National Tribal Broadband Strategy (NTBS) is part of the American Broadband Initiative

The NTBS highlights the necessary actions needed to spur investment within AI/AN communities. The strategy was developed in collaboration with: 

  • Department of Commerce, National Telecommunication and Information Association 
  • Department of Agriculture 
  • Federal Communications Commission 
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services 
  • Department of Education 
  • White House Council on Native American Affairs  
  • White House Office of Science and Technology Policy 
  • White House Office of Management and Budget

It aims to address the broadband disparities facing tribal communities that limit tribal members' access to education, healthcare, and economic resources. 

The Office of Indian Economic Development intends to use the strategy to help close the digital divide. The NTBS establishes a policy framework and contains several specific recommendations for federal agencies to promote greater broadband access for tribes.

National Tribal Broadband Grant

The purpose of the National Tribal Broadband Grant (NTBG) program is to bring broadband services to AI/AN communities that need them. NTBG funding recipients can hire qualified consultants to research the potential deployment or expansion of high-speed internet transmitted through DSL, BPL, cable modem, fiber, wireless, and satellite.

Roads and Transportation

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Road Maintenance Program

The BIA Road Maintenance Program (RMP) is funded by the Department of the Interior and managed by BIA. Through RMP, BIA is responsible for maintaining the over 29,000 miles of roads that are part of its road system. BIA helps to support the empowerment of AI/AN communities by contracting out a significant portion of the program to tribes under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

Tribal Transportation Program

The Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 established the Indian Reservation Roads Program, which is now called the Tribal Transportation Program (TTP). The total federal construction authorization for tribal transportation is currently over $10 billion. These investments through TTP have contributed to the creation, improvement and maintenance of roads, bridges and other transit and public safety projects on or near tribal lands.

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