Earlier this year, the FCC renewed and renamed its tribal government task force, established in 2011, as the Native Nations Communications Task Force. The task force advises the FCC on the impact of various proposals on Tribal self-sufficiency, economic development and access to communications facilities and services.
The rename reflected the tasks force’s influence beyond increasing deployment and adoption of broadband on Tribal lands.
The advisory board includes elected leaders from federally recognized Tribal governments or governmental entities, or their designated employees. Representatives serve three-year terms.
Most recently, Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Michael Conners has been appointed to the task force. Chief Conners joins 19 elected tribal leaders, as well as 8 FCC senior staff and decision makers.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe is a testament to tribal self-sovereignty and determination to increase tribal access to broadband and vital communications infrastructure and services. The tribe has built a 68-mile fiber network on the Akwesasne Territory, serving 1,200 homes and businesses. It’s now managed by their broadband company Mohawk Networks, LLC. The tribe deploys high-speed Internet to its previously unserved communities in Northern New York State through North Country Broadband, LLC; a subsidiary of the tribally owned enterprise Mohawk Networks, LLC.
“Representing Native Nations on this communications task force is indicative of our local effort to impact tribal broadband access throughout the nation,” Conners said. “I’ve seen the Akwesasne community transition from dial-up services to a connected community with access to a fiber-optic network. This has led to the expansion of many small and mid-sized businesses and innovation that wouldn’t have been possible without the availability of high-speed internet. We’re now in a position to start leveling the playing field in education, healthcare and economic development; but we have an obligation to help other rural communities to overcome their challenges, too.”
On March 21, 2017, Chief Conners testified before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on “Broadband: Deploying America’s 21st Century Infrastructure,” addressing hurdles and shared best tribal practices in broadband deployment. This year, Mohawk Networks and Tribal Council participated in a federal report on Tribal Broadband Challenges compiled by the Government Accountability Office.
The Native Nations Communications Task Force congregates in person twice yearly—once in Washington D.C. and once in “the field.” They meet on screen four times annually via teleconference. The Task Force’s first meeting will be announced in a subsequent public notice to be issued by the FCC.