In partnership with Alaska Tribal Broadband, HCI Energy has been selected to support the delivery of reliable broadband to native villages throughout Alaska to help villagers cross over to the other side of the digital divide. The project is driven and funded by grants from the United States Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
NTIA administers grant programs that further the deployment and use of broadband and other technologies in America, laying the groundwork for sustainable economic growth; improved education, public safety, and health care; and the advancement of other national priorities. Specifically, the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, is a $980 million program directed to tribal governments — including Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian entities — to be used for broadband deployment on tribal lands, as well as for telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion. After issuing the program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on June 3, more than 300 applications rolled in prior to the Sept. 1 deadline, underscoring the critical need for such access.
The current initiative HCI is participating in includes a purchase order for 50 eight-foot by 10-foot Hybrid Cubes custom designed to meet the needs of the harsh arctic environment and various power grid conditions. The units will be delivered and deployed by native-owned Alaska Tribal Broadband, a company dedicated to improving broadband on Alaska tribal lands, and related project team affiliates and partners.
Indigenous communities are among the most unserved and underserved populations for broadband deployment and adoption in the country. Roughly half of households in tribal lands lack broadband service at home. While part of this is due to gaps in broadband infrastructure that disproportionately impact tribal areas, this also is because the United States has some of the highest broadband prices among OECD countries.
Given that the financial impacts of COVID-19 have been exacerbated in rural and tribal communities across the country, HCI Energy is extremely proud to be part of an initiative that provides such essential infrastructure for helping Americans do their jobs, participate in distance learning, access health care and stay connected. The TBCP will fund programs targeted toward making broadband more affordable, including those that provide free or reduced-cost service.