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Washington, DC, 24 October 2022 – The Internet Society, in partnership with Connect Humanity, will co-host the sixth annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit, bringing together Indigenous community members and leaders, network operators, researchers, and policymakers with a common goal: connecting Indigenous communities in the United States and Canada to fast, affordable, and sustainable Internet.
Indigenous communities are among the most underserved in terms of Internet access in North America. Less than one quarter of Indigenous communities in Canada have access to broadband speeds, in the U.S. 18 percent of Tribal reservations have no access at all. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Canadian and U.S. federal governments have committed billions of dollars in funding to close the connectivity gap in these communities.
It is vital that Indigenous people are involved at all stages–from development through implementation–of broadband projects that directly affect their communities. It is why this year’s summit marks a significant milestone, as it transitions to a truly community-led event, under the aegis of the newly created Indigenous Connectivity Institute.
Established by Connect Humanity, the Indigenous Connectivity Institute was formed to ensure Indigenous communities have the capacity, support, knowledge, and financial resources needed to drive digital equity solutions in their respective communities, on their own terms, and under their own leadership. It is led by an advisory committee of Indigenous connectivity advocates from across the United States and Canada, including many past summit participants.
The Internet Society has been organizing the Indigenous Connectivity Summit since 2017, but it has always been our goal to transition leadership of the event to the Indigenous communities themselves. Partnering with Connect Humanity and the Indigenous Connectivity Institute will further the goal of developing community-led solutions that will bridge the digital divide for Indigenous people across North America.”
Sharayah Lane, Senior Advisor, Community Connectivity, Internet Society and advisory committee member, Indigenous Connectivity Institute
The summit will be held in-person, from 24 October through 28 October, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and will feature workshops, presentations, lightning talks and panel discussions on a number of issues Indigenous communities face as they work to access the Internet on their own terms. Topics include broadband mapping, spectrum sovereignty, building off-grid networks and capacity building, among others. An important outcome of the summit will be a set of policy recommendations jointly developed by participants that will guide advocacy efforts moving forward. These recommendations will be released in the weeks following the event, and, if implemented would support Indigenous communities to drive their own connectivity solutions under their own leadership.
The COVID-19 pandemic shined a glaring light on the vast number of underserved communities that are unable to access or afford reliable broadband, spurring government action. In the United States, the 2020 CARES Act earmarked $1 billion for broadband infrastructure improvements on Indian reservations; the American Rescue Plan Act allocated $17 billion nationwide for broadband improvements; and the 2022 Infrastructure Act directed $2 billion for a Tribal Broadband Connectivity Fund.
Canada, however, lags behind. While the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Broadband Fund has increased to CAD$750 million over five years to bring Canadians up to speed, it still isn’t enough. The last round of applications alone received nearly 600 submissions totaling over $1.5 billion in funding requests.
Following the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as the philanthropic community, are finally starting to invest in closing connectivity gaps which disproportionately impact Indigenous communities. But to make sure these funds are targeted toward the communities that need it most, Indigenous people need to be at the center of the development of policies, funding programs and infrastructure projects that affect their communities. The Indigenous Connectivity Institute is building the knowledge, community, and advocacy capacity so that Indigenous Peoples can build a digital future on their terms. And this year’s summit will shape policy that will help turn the tide on decades of under-investment in Indigenous communities.”
Mark Buell, Director of Indigenous Programs, Connect Humanity
Driving Change in North America
The Internet Society, a global nonprofit organization working to promote an open, globally connected, secure and trustworthy Internet, established the Indigenous Connectivity Summit in 2017. Over the past six years, the summit has evolved beyond a gathering of stakeholders to become a strong, community led movement focused on finding, advocating, and building practical solutions to improve access in Indigenous communities across North America.
The summit has had consequential impact to date:
Registration for the summit is open; it will be the first in-person event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be streamed live online for those unable to be there.
About the Indigenous Connectivity Institute
The Indigenous Connectivity Institute is a community of leaders working to close the digital divide by sharing knowledge, shaping policy, and helping people learn the skills to build and run their own internet networks. Dedicated to solving the unique challenges faced by Indigenous Communities in Canada and the United States, the Institute is the first organization dedicated to digital equity in First Nations, Inuit, Métis, American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.
About the Internet Society
Founded in 1992 by Internet pioneers, the Internet Society is a global nonprofit organization working to ensure the Internet remains a force for good for everyone. Through its community of members, special interest groups, and 120+ chapters around the world, the organization defends and promotes Internet policies, standards, and protocols that keep the Internet open, globally connected, and secure. For more information, please visit internetsociety.org.
About Connect Humanity
Connect Humanity is a nonprofit fund advancing digital equity by investing in community connectivity providers. It helps underserved communities identify the right solutions to meet their connectivity needs and provides funding and technical assistance so they can build the internet infrastructure, tools, and skills they need to participate fully in a digital society.
Allesandra de Santillana
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