Tribal Consultations on Telecommunications Held in Arizona

August 31, 2010 was a busy day for Tribal consultations in Arizona.  In the morning, the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona hosted the USDA Rural Development Tribal Consultation at the Heard Museum and in the afternoon, the National Tribal Telecommunications Association (NTTA) held their quarterly meeting at Wild Horse Pass.

The USDA Rural Development Tribal Consultation Meeting was regarding the Substantially Underserved Trust Area (SUTA) Provision of the 2008 Farm Bill.  This facilitated two-hour consultation included Rural Development representative, Alan Stephens, the Arizona State Director and a representative from the Rural Utilities Service, Jessica Zufolo from Washington. It was a packed house, with more participants than expected.  Even though it was an Arizona tribal consultation, there was one tribal member from Cheyenne River who came for the consultation.

After an overview of rules and services, the dialogue ensued. Interestingly, while RUS deals with rural electric, water and waste disposal, telecommunications infrastructure, and distance learning and telemedicine, the topic of concern and the most discussion was broadband connectivity.  It is clear, that tribes are extremely interested and concerned about telecommunications infrastructure and access to the internet for their respective communities. The discussions just kept leading back to this issue; there was little reference to the other areas that the SUTA provisions cover.

This consultation was structured primarily as a listening session and there was a court reporter taking detailed notes. The notes on this consultation should be posted here in the near future.

The afternoon meeting was the opening session of the NTTA Quarterly Meetings. This well attended meeting was also focused on telecommunications.  The majority of the afternoon included a presentation and listening session with the new FCC Office of Native Affairs and Policy.  The Bureau Chief of this office, Geoffrey Blackwell, was joined by several members of his staff.  Blackwell gave a thorough overview of the tasks that his office will undertake. He also asked for input on how to reshape the Indian Telecommunications Initiative and make these yearly meetings more interactive.  This office promises to create two-way communications and dialogue with Indian country.

As a part of this FCC listening session, the NTTA presented information to the FCC.  NTTA’s primary issues include regulatory reform, the creation of a Tribal Broadband Fund, Tribal infrastructure and broadband access, DTV Transition results, and building Tribal policy participation in Washington D.C.

The NTTA Quarterly Meeting continued on through Wednesday September 1st. This day was primarily spent discussing NTTA business.

Published by Traci L. Morris

Dr. Morris, the Director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. Under her leadership, the AIPI has grown and diversified its service to Indian Country via an MOU formalizing a long-standing partnership with the Native American Finance Officers Association (NAFOA) and forming the Tribal Economic Leadership Program offering training in Tribal Economic Governance and Tribal Financial Management; access to Entrepreneurship training and tribal business support through Inno-Nations; and Economic Development Consulting; and, the formalization of the Institute via by-laws and an advisory board comprised of both internal ASU leadership and external tribal and non-tribal leadership. In her work at both ASU and prior, Morris has worked with Native American tribes; Tribal businesses; Native American non-profits; Native media makers, artists, and galleries; written a college-accredited curriculum in Native American new media; and has advocated for digital inclusion at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill. Morris’s research and publications on Native American media and the digital divide is focused on Internet use, digital inclusion, network neutrality, digital and new media curriculums, digital inclusion and development of broadband networks in Indian Country. Her book, Native American Voices: A Reader, continues to be a primary teaching tool in colleges throughout the country. Dr. Morris is Affiliated Faculty at ASU's School for the Future of Innovation in Society, an Affiliate of ASU's Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology, a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, President of the Board of the Phoenix Indian Center, Board member of the Arizona American Indian Chamber of Commerce, and on the Advisory Council of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums. Formerly, Morris served member of the Advisory Board for the Department of Labor's Native American Employment and Training Council and served a two-year appointment (2014-2016 and 2010-2012) on the Federal Communications Commission's Consumer Advisory Committee. As an entrepreneur prior to her ASU appointment, Morris founded Homahota Consulting LLC, a national Native American woman-owned professional services firm working in policy analysis, telecommunications, education, and research assisting tribes in their nation-building efforts and working with Native Nations, tribal businesses and those businesses working with tribes. Morris has an M. A. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s American Indian Studies, in addition to a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Colorado State University.

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