COMMISSIONER ROBERT M. McDOWELL
Office of Native Affairs and Policy 2012 Annual Report
March 20, 2013
Geoff and Irene, thanks to you and your entire team for your very informative review of
the Office of Native Affairs and Policy (“ONAP”) 2012 Annual Report. Your diligence in
ensuring that the voices of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians are heard in
every corner of this building and beyond is appreciated. I am also pleased that Senator Udall
was able to speak before us today. His interest in expanding communications services on Tribal
lands has been commendable. Finally, I thank the honorable Tribal and Alaska Native
representatives who are joining us today. Your ideas are incredibly valuable, and I hope that
you have found the Commission to be helpful.
One of the first photographs in today’s presentation caught my eye: a picture of an
Alaska Native Village. That picture reminds me of my first trip as a commissioner. I travelled
to Alaska in August of 2006 specifically to visit the lands of Alaska Natives and learn about their
unique challenges. Subsequently, I have visited several other Tribal lands. The picture also
reminds me of the Commission’s efforts in 2008 to control spiking costs and impose a spending
cap on competitive eligible telecommunications carrier access to high-cost universal service
support. Although the purpose of the cap was to control the growth of the fund, which I
supported overall, I found it important to support a narrow exception to the cap for providers
serving Tribal lands throughout our nation, including Alaska, where telephone service and
broadband deployment rates have been extremely low compared to other areas of our nation.
Years later, in 2011, as part of our comprehensive reform of the universal service high-
cost fund, the Commission established a separate fund to encourage mobile service on Tribal
lands. I am interested in learning more about how implementation of the Tribal Mobility Fund is
progressing. In addition to addressing the unique circumstances of Tribal lands as part of
universal service reforms, I was also pleased to support the Commission’s efforts in the past
couple years to encourage radio service to areas served by American Indian Tribes, Alaska
Native Villages and tribal consortia.
Separately, while at the Commission, I have routinely sought ways to remove
unnecessary regulations and, in particular, I have noted the importance of identifying rules that
are barriers to the expansion of communications services on Tribal lands. Providers currently
serving, or seeking to serve, these areas of the country face many unique challenges – including
difficult terrain, extreme climates and remoteness. The Commission should be finding ways to
enable these providers’ efforts rather than adding to their burdens.
There is much more work to be done in this area, and I hope that all stakeholders can
continue to find ways to work together in a productive manner.