‘We tried’: Tribal broadband bill dies in Senate (copy)

Rep. Tyson Running Wolf, D-Browning, introduces HB 18 to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 20, 2023 in the state Capitol.

THOM BRIDGE, Independent Record

A bill that would’ve given tribal communities a say in broadband projects on reservations was struck down in the Senate on Tuesday.

After COVID-19 exposed the digital divide, the federal government invested billions in grants that bring high-speed internet to rural and tribal communities. Tribes in Montana have received more than $100 million to get these projects off the ground. But too often, according to Rep. Tyson Running Wolf, who sponsored the bill, private broadband companies fail to collaborate with tribes.

House Bill 804 stated that if a broadband development occurred on a reservation, then an agency, political subdivision of the state and a tribal government should provide oversight of private internet service provider development.

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Running Wolf said in the bill’s first committee hearing that the legislation would ensure providers “don’t abuse their services on reservations.” Patrick Yawakie, a lobbyist for the Blackfeet

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