The Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved plans to provide more broadband and communications services to Native American tribal areas Thursday.
Native American tribal leaders pleaded for more help to develop modern communications networks in the rural and often remote areas where they live, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said people had died on tribal lands after not being able to get a signal for their cell phones to call 911.
As the FCC moves forward with its national broadband plan, "We ask that you do not leave Indian Country behind," said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians.
The commission approved a measure that would explore the issues related to improving communications services, including defining tribal lands, more consultation with Native Nations, and greater broadband deployment.
The FCC also approved two measures that expand spectrum use in tribal lands and increase opportunities for broadcast radio services in those areas.
"Communications services like broadband, wireless communications and radio aren't just valuable as means to deliver entertainment and diversions," Genachowski said.
"They are vital platforms for community building, cultural preservation, and the promotion of public health, education and economic opportunity in Native Nations."
Genachowski named 30 members to serve on a new FCC-Native Nations Broadband Task Force.