GAO Report on High-Speed Internet Access Programs on Tribal Lands

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Additional Coordination and Performance Measurement Needed for High-Speed Internet Access Programs on Tribal Lands 

High-speed Internet service is viewed as a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure and an economic driver, particularly to remote tribal communities. However, in 2015, FCC reported that the lack of service in tribal areas presents impediments. GAO was asked to review the status of high-speed Internet on tribal lands. The report examines (1) perspectives of tribes and providers on high-speed Internet access and barriers to increasing this access; (2) the level of interrelation and coordination between federal programs that promote high- speed Internet access on tribal lands; and (3) existing data and performance measures related to high-speed Internet on tribal lands. GAO visited or interviewed officials from a non- generalizable sample of 21 tribal entities and 6 service providers selected to provide diversity in size, location, and poverty levels. GAO also reviewed FCC and USDA fiscal year 2010 through 2014 program data, funding, and materials and interviewed federal officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that FCC (1) develop joint training and outreach with USDA; (2) develop performance goals and measures for tribal areas for improving broadband availability to households; (3) develop performance goals and measures for improving broadband availability to tribal schools and libraries; and (4) improve the reliability of FCC data related to institutions that receive E-rate funding by defining “tribal” on the program application. FCC agreed with the recommendations.