On May 5, 2021, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a new policy for “Streamlining the Rights-of-Way Application Process for Telecommunications Projects.” The intent of the new policy is to promote the efficient and effective process of ROW applications for telecommunications projects.
The BIA issued its new policy in response to new programs by the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in support of tribal telecommunications and broadband infrastructure. The FCC is providing tribal licenses through its 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window, and NTIA is providing grants for broadband infrastructure. Both programs are subject to strict deadlines, and they require BIA to issue ROWs in a timely manner.
To facilitate tribal participation in these programs, BIA’s new policy states that the BIA must determine within five business days whether a ROW application package is complete or not. In addition, depending on whether a ROW is crossing tribal trust lands, allotments, or multiple parcels, BIA approval may not be needed, a single approval may be used for multiple parcels, and approval may be done as soon as the application is complete.
Tribes are encouraged to review the new policy for specific streamlining opportunities in the BIA ROW approval process. The new policy can be found here.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP works to support tribal efforts to invest in new and expanded wireless and broadband infrastructure in Indian Country. To learn more about the new policy and how we can assist, contact attorney Thomasina Real Bird in our Colorado office at 303-926-5292.