Federal Grants to Help San Diego County Tribes Expand High-Speed Internet

Two San Diego County tribes will receive federal grants to expand high-speed Internet service to their tribal members, the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced earlier this month.

The Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians will receive $498,380, and the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians will receive $592,110.

The administration aims to improve the social, educational and work lives of tribal community members by awarding these grants and improving high-speed Internet access on tribal lands, said Andy Berke, special representative for broadband at the Department of Commerce.

“When you have an Internet connection, can afford it and know how to use it, you have more power and control over your own life,” he said. “You can apply for a job, you can communicate with people you love, you can get entertainment that you may not have had access to before. People will be able to live the kind of life that they want as a result of these grants.”

At Viejas, the funding will provide five years of Internet service to 215 tribal households located in Alpine, the NTIA reports.

Pauma will use its funding to “reduce barriers to Internet usage among tribal members in Pauma Valley” through programs to support making the cost more affordable and educational programs to help with telemedicine, distance learning and telework. The funding will also be used to purchase laptops and tablets for Pauma tribal members, as well as for technology training lessons.

In total, the department is awarding 19 grants totaling $77 million in the latest round of funding from the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, the Biden administration announced in a press release on May 4. A total of 34 tribal interprojects have been funded since the program launched, totaling more than $83 million.

The only other Southern Californian tribe that has received funding thus far is the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in Riverside County.

In addition to the grants, Berke said tribes will receive support from NTIA through webinars, technical assistance and by having access to a planning toolkit.

The tribal grant program is part of a wider effort to expand high-speed Internet access across the country, an issue that was exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic when more people started to work from home, attend classes online and use telemedicine for non-emergency medical appointments.

©2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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