HONOLULU, HAWAII — The only 100 percent Tribally-owned insurance solution provider announced yesterday that it is launching a new business line to help Tribal Nations and Native communities close the persistent and pervasive “connectivity divide” in Indian country.
AMERIND is embarking on a groundbreaking new business line, AMERIND Critical Infrastructure, to help Tribal Nations develop and deploy the most important 21st Century critical infrastructure within their communities: high-speed “broadband” internet. AMERIND Critical Infrastructure (ACI) will bring together the unique blend of the expertise of proven economic management officials, former groundbreaking federal telecom regulators with a wealth of experience in Washington, DC, and experienced Tribal project managers. ACI will provide professional management services and targeted low-cost financing for Tribal projects.
A New Insightful Business Line at AMERIND
As a federally chartered Section 17 Tribal company, AMERIND will employ its deep understanding of and respect for Tribal Nations, and utilize its financial acumen of funding mechanisms and the technological applications in Indian country, to help Tribal Nations leverage federal subsidies and programs designed to support broadband deployment nationwide. As a very important dual component of this effort, AMERIND Critical Infrastructure will also provide Tribal Nations with access to low-cost capital as community and social impact investing for broadband deployment. This low-cost lending of capital will help Tribal Nations afford the ever necessary matching requirements for federal funding.
“Today’s world is way beyond the technologies of the last century,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, AMERIND’s Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel, who is a former senior official at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). “Tribal Nations exist in the Internet Age, and broadband internet is the platform that brings all the benefits of modern technology to sustain health, safety and well-being. It means jobs, education, telemedicine, and literally a whole world of opportunities. But the digital divide of the 1990’s is now the Tribal connectivity divide of this millennium. Tribes want better internet access, and they want it now.”
“Just like other services that AMERIND provides, broadband is essential to the nation building of Tribal governments and institutions. So, as AMERIND protects the most necessary critical infrastructure in Tribal communities — Tribal homes — we can also help Tribes provide for those homes with the most important modern infrastructure: technology. This is a way to give back to our owners, Tribal Nations, and better serve their needs. That is one of our core values at AMERIND,” said Blackwell.
Blackwell made the announcement Monday during the first day of AMERIND’s and the National American Indian Housing Council’s (NAIHC) 2016 Annual Convention and Tradeshow. Blackwell oversees AMERIND’s legal affairs as well as the Finance, Information Technology, Human Resources, and Communications departments. He is the former founding Chief of the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, and former Director of Strategic Relations and Minority Business Development at Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc. During two separate tours of duty at the FCC, he managed efforts to work with Tribal Nations and write dozens of regulations and policies to deploy communications technologies on Tribal Lands, and assist Tribes in owning and operating telephone and Internet companies, as well as radio and TV stations.
Along with announcing the new ACI business line, AMERIND also welcomed Irene Flannery as the new Director of AMERIND Critical Infrastructure. Flannery is another long time former senior regulator at the FCC, and is a top national expert in the subsidy mechanisms of the FCC. She spent over a dozen years at the FCC, working her way up from a staff attorney to become the Chief of the Telecom Access Policy Division, which oversees FCC subsides totaling over $9 billion annually. Flannery also worked for more than five years as the founding Deputy Chief of the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, assisting in the management and drafting of key policy provisions that benefit Tribal schools, libraries, health care facilities, and low-income households. Flannery is also a former Vice President at the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the entity that disburses FCC subsidies. While with USAC, Flannery was responsible for the disbursement of over $5 billion annually in the High Cost and Low Income programs.
Federal and Tribal officials also addressed the AMERIND and NAIHC conference. The Honorable Lourdes Castro Ramirez, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Honorable Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians, gave reports on Tribal housing and NCAI. Gary Davis, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, also gave an invigorating keynote address about the importance of Native peoples working together to achieve a future of lasting economic prosperity. “We have to dispel the myth that self-sufficiency is impossible. We are innovative people,” said Davis.
“AMERIND certainly agrees,” Blackwell added, “and AMERIND is uniquely positioned to create this business line to support Tribal communities. What we already know, instinctively, is that when it comes to the technology goals and priorities of Tribal Nations, no one size fits all. Tribal Nations are unique and separate sovereigns, one to another. Their goals and priorities, and deeply held cultural traditions, reflect their individualities. We look forward to growing this ACI business line to assist Tribal Nations with the analysis, planning, management, financing, design, and execution of deploying broadband in their nations. Tribes are asserting their cyber-sovereignty, and strengthening and protecting Tribal communities is what AMERIND is all about.
AMERIND and NAIHC have held a collaborative convention the past few years to aid their organizations in offering extensive training opportunities. AMERIND grew out of a need to provide affordable, accessible claims coverage to Tribal housing authorities when commercial insurance became too costly in 1986. AMERIND celebrates its 30-year milestone this year.
AMERIND was founded in 1986 by more than 400 Tribes who united and pooled their resources to create AMERIND to keep money working within Indian country. AMERIND provides employee benefits, and property, liability and workers compensation insurance for Tribal governments, businesses and individual property coverage. It is the only 100% Tribally-owned and operated insurance solutions provider in Indian country. To learn more about AMERIND’s Tribes Protecting Tribes or for an insurance quote, go to www.amerind.com.