Federal Communications Law Journal

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Citation

53 Federal Communications Law Journal 137 (2000)


Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress instructed the FCC to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable telecommunications services. Consistent with that mandate, the FCC implemented a series of public hearings to discuss with tribes the issues they face concerning low telephone penetration rates. The FCC recommended investigation of universal service in unserved and underserved areas because telephone penetration rates among low-income consumers on tribal lands lagged behind rates in the rest of the country. From these hearings, the FCC proposed a jurisdictional framework to determine which eligible carriers would be under tribal, state, or federal jurisdiction. This Note argues that the FCC’s proposed tribal and state jurisdiction policies deter eligible telecommunications companies from serving tribal and non-tribal lands, because the process of petitioning the state or federal commission to determine jurisdiction is time-consuming and goes against the principles of tribal sovereignty. In addition, this Note proposes that Congress must expressly limit state jurisdiction in order for telephone penetration rates to increase on tribal lands.