Indigenous rights to wireless frequencies

Spectrum sovereignty advocate Darrah Blackwater works to install broadband equipment for Native communities during the pandemic.

“Spectrum sovereignty” advocates for Indigenous peoples’ rights to control wireless communication frequencies on their lands. This concept challenges traditional spectrum auctions, the process where governments sell rights to transmit signals over specific bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to different technologies like radio, wifi, etc. Spectrum sovereignty proposes that Indigenous communities manage and benefit from these digital resources, ensuring their cultural and digital autonomy.

In New Zealand, Māori see spectrum as a natural resource that was never ceded to the Crown and, therefore, Indigenous peoples should have the autonomy to use that resource as they see fit and see the financial profits from using the resource.

Proposed bill Deploying the Internet by Guaranteeing Indian Tribes Autonomy over Licensing (DIGITAL) Reservations Act would affirm Tribal sovereignty to spectrum rights for the first time in United States history by granting Native Nations full permanent access to spectrum licenses over Tribal lands.

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