Distributive policy

Relationship Building Is Key to Connecting Tribal Communities: USDA Policy Advisor: Broadband Breakfast

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2022 — Building relationships is key to successfully deploying broadband infrastructure in tribal communities through the Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, a department adviser said Wednesday.

“These are people who know the lay of the land in the state they oversee, they know the players, they can help you build relationships, they can walk you through our processes, they can explain the smallest details of our programs, they can help you think about which programs are right for you right now and which programs can help you build for the future,” Edyael Casaperaltasenior policy adviser in the department’s rural public services department, said at a Broadband Breakfast for Lunch event.

“You should establish a relationship with your telecom field representative,” she added.

The ReConnect program, originally launched in December 2018, provides funding through grants, loans, and combinations of grants and loans. The USDA encourages anyone interested in building infrastructure to apply for a grant, loan, or grant-loan combination. The latest ReConnect funding round closed its application process on Wednesday.

Casaperalta recommended that those interested in building broadband infrastructure on tribal lands develop a positive relationship with the tribal government of that land.

“Anyone interested in serving tribal land is required to show a consent resolution from the tribal government of that land,” she said. “The tribal government has jurisdiction. They are the ones who ultimately decide who builds what and where.

“We consciously encourage everyone on the bridge, because that’s what it takes to connect rural communities,” she said.