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Rincon Tribe Receives $1.2M to Expand High-Speed Internet

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has announced that the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians will receive more than $1.2 million to expand high-speed Internet access on its reservation lands.

(TNS) — The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration  announced Thursday that the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians will receive more than $1.2 million to expand high-speed internet access on its reservation lands.

Through its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, the federal government is aiming 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.

In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission reported that only 65 percent of those living on rural, tribal lands had access to broadband internet, compared to 99 percent of housing units in urban areas of the country. The need for reliable internet access on tribal lands was exacerbated even further in the early months of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic demonstrated just how difficult it is to participate in our modern economy without access to reliable high-speed internet," Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in the announcement. "These grants will provide crucial resources to tribal communities working to ensure everyone can use the internet to attend classes, visit a doctor or run a business."

Rincon's grant will be used to increase the access to high-speed internet service for tribal members on the reservation by obtaining broadband equipment and supporting efforts to increase adoption of the service. The tribe will also use the funding to plan for future broadband infrastructure projects.

The tribe is receiving the NTIA grant months after announcing a partnership with AT&T in March to build a fiber network on its tribal lands for reliable high-speed, broadband internet service.

In this newest release of grant money, the agency also announced eight other awards, including to one other tribe in California. The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians in Northern California will receive $584,000 in funding to provide all high school-age and eligible adult tribal members with mobile hotspots with a year of internet service and laptops if they don't already have a qualifying device.

Rincon is the third tribe in San Diego County to receive funding from the NTIA this year. Back in May, the agency announced grants to 19 tribes across the country, including $498,380 to the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians and $592,110 to the Viejas Band of the Kumeyaay Indians.

Since the inception of its Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, NTIA has awarded more than $91 million to 43 different tribal broadband programs across the country.

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