Ruiz’s second bill to be signed into law this year helping communities in the 36th Congressional District
■ Chronicle News Service
On March 23, Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) announced that his bill, the Tribal Broadband Deployment Act, was signed into law. H.R. 5007, the Tribal Broadband Deployment Act was included in H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which funds the government through Sept. 31, 2018. The bill requires the FCC to help bring broadband internet to unserved tribal lands, making it easier to also improve connectivity for surrounding rural communities such as those in the Eastern Coachella Valley and San Jacinto/Santa Rosa Mountains.
“This is a huge win for underserved rural communities and tribes here in Riverside County,” said Ruiz. “By improving connectivity for our rural tribal communities, the surrounding rural communities will also benefit from the expanded broadband infrastructure and high-speed internet access. Broadband internet has become as essential to success as the telephone was in 1950 and this bill will go a long way toward delivering broadband to thousands of people in our region. I am proud of this achievement and will continue fighting to serve my district through pragmatic, bipartisan problem-solving.”
“Tribal communities, as a part of the greater surrounding communities, are an integral part of local rural economies,” said Kevin Short, general manager for Anza Electric Cooperative, Inc.. “As we’ve supported building our ConnectAnza broadband project to our local tribal members, the positive impact has been measurable in all of our territory. This bill will help us continue to serve and deliver true high-speed internet access to all of our cooperative members.”
“As recently as 2002, tribal members had to drive 3 miles down the road just to make a simple phone call—we weren’t even thinking about broadband internet,” said Chairman Steven Estrada, Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians. “Many communities in our region still lack access to broadband and Dr. Ruiz’s bill will help bridge the gap while fulfilling the federal trust responsibility to tribes.”
“NCAI [National Congress of American Indians] is encouraged that the Tribal Broadband Deployment Act was included in the omnibus spending bill,” said National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jacqueline Pata. “This legislation will provide critical data on the lack of broadband infrastructure in Indian Country, which will ensure that tribal leaders, Congress, and the administration have the information they need to finally close the digital divide in Indian Country.”
H.R. 5007, the Tribal Broadband Deployment Act, directs the FCC to, within 30 months, identify tribal lands which lack access to broadband internet, and conclude a rulemaking to address this gap through funding, technological resources, or other solutions.
According to the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, 58 percent of Riverside County residents living in rural areas don’t have access to high speed internet, compared to only 2 percent of Americans in urban areas. Many rural areas in Riverside County are also near rural tribal communities, more than half of which also do not have broadband and would benefit from the Tribal Broadband Deployment Act.
Broadband internet is critical to access the tools and resources to succeed, such as:
* online courses and live lectures to help achieve a higher education,
* teleconferencing and imaging to improve health care access in rural areas, and
* online vide oconferences and web resources available for small businesses.