Community Networks 25 March 2020

2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit Policy Recommendations

Indigenous peoples in North America are pursuing innovative and independent ways to connect to the Internet. They face unique challenges to connectivity and, when it comes to policymaking, they are often left out ​of both national markets and the policymaking processes that supports them.

When it comes to creating sound policies to connect the world, everyone’s voice counts.

In 2019, the Internet Society held the 3rd annual Indigenous Connectivity Summit (ICS) in Hilo, Hawai’i. Amongst the delegates were 5 Indigenous advocates from across North America who trained to become the 2019 Indigenous Connectivity Summit Policy Advisors. 

Based on conversation and outcomes from the Summit, they developed 8 recommendations to help policymakers in the United States and Canada make more inclusive decisions.

These recommendations were then discussed and agreed on by everyone at the 2019 ICS.  Collaboration at its best.

Please help make your local policymakers aware of these recommendations. You can share them on social media, raise them in meetings, include them in reports, and more.  

Now, more than ever, connectivity and community are key.

The following were adopted as the 2019 ICS Policy Recommendations, in no particular order of importance, as all are considered equal priority:       

  1. Native Hawaiians must be included as a Tribal Nation under the Federal Communication Committee’s definition.
  2. Indigenous (Tribal, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, Alaska Native, Metís, and Inuit) governments and/or representative organizations must be engaged during the early planning stages of any project or policy that may affect their communities or land. By working with Indigenous communities early on, non-Indigenous entities may be able to form mutually beneficial and lasting relationships. Furthermore, Indigenous governments will be empowered to play an active role in the projects and policies that impact their communities.
  3. All Indigenous communities are unique, so engagement must be made on a community-by-community basis. The guidelines used by the Government of Canada[2] may be a good starting point. Critically, this engagement should not be considered “tick the box” collaboration, but rather an opportunity to help Indigenous and non-Indigenous entities work together and form meaningful partnerships. Engagement guidelines should include information for non-Indigenous entities about who to contact within their community, the appropriate way to contact them, and some tips for smooth communication.
  4. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should push back the Tribal Priority window for the 2.5Ghtz Educational Broadband Service (EBS) Spectrum in the United States. Participants strongly agreed that the window should not begin until spring 2020 at the earliest and extend it from a 90-day window to a 180-day window at minimum. The FCC must also increase its efforts to promote this opportunity in order to reach all Tribal entities and educate them about the potential impact.
  5. Policymakers should work with appropriate representatives to improve and enforce accountability standards for companies or non-Indigenous entities working with Indigenous governments or other representative bodies. For example, funds provided by governments to connect Indigenous communities must be used in a demonstrably effective and efficient manner. In short, value for
    money spent.
  6. Organizations and agencies that use data on or intellectual propriety of Indigenous Peoples for their own purposes without consulting the owners of the knowledge should be held accountable. Metrics to determine the parameters of use for this data should be developed in consultation with appropriate representatives. The First Nations Principles of OCAP[3] may serve as a guide.
  7. Policymakers should ensure that when new federal development funds for broadband are created, the criteria for applicants do not exclude Indigenous governments or community members. They should also open funding to all kinds of providers, including small or community-run networks.
  8. Federal regulators should ensure that Indigenous governments and Indigenous-owned entities have first rights to the spectrum over their lands. Unused spectrum over Indigenous lands should be reallocated for Indigenous use.


[1] This group included Brandon Makaawaawa (Nation of Hawaii), Darrah Blackwater (Navajo Nation), Darrian Danner (Alaska Native), and Ula Shirt (Piikani First Nation). The Internet Society would like to sincerely thank this group of individuals for their time and assistance.  
Federal regulators should ensure that Indigenous governments and Indigenous-owned entities have first rights to the spectrum over their lands. Unused spectrum over Indigenous lands should be reallocated for Indigenous use.

[2] The Government of Canada has a duty to consult with Indigenous groups on all matters that might affect existing or potential Indigenous or treaty rights. More information can be found on the Indigenous and Northern Affairs webpage:

[3] Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession. OCAP are a guiding set of standards “that establish how First Nations data should be collected, protected, used, or shared. They are the de facto standard for how to conduct research with First Nations.”

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