The Mescalero Apache Nation has successfully opposed an attempt by T-Mobile to bring telecommunication services to the reservation, which would have negatively impacted the business of Mescalero Apache Telecom, Inc. (MATI), reported The Ruidoso News.
While New Mexico State regulators approved T-Mobile as an Eligible Telecommunications Carrier (ETC), the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission ruled that authority does not extend to the Mescalero Apache Reservation. ETCs can apply for government financial support to expand communication services, particularly in rural, underserved area.
The tribe invoked tribal sovereignty to block T-Mobile from providing wireless voice, messaging and data services on its lands. Currently, MATI primarily offers basic, local and long distance telephone services to 97 percent of the nearly 4,000 tribal members, and DSL to about 92 percent of the reservation businesses and households. The company—which has serviced the reservation since 2001, according to the company’s website, matisp.net—has plans to expand wireless and broadband Internet on the reservation, MATI legal counsel Alan Morel told The Ruidoso News.
MATI additionally consults other tribal and rural communities on acquiring telecommunication services by hosting workshops on obtaining funds, management and billing, infrastructure design and maintenance, and more.
“Mescalero Apache Telecom is only one of eight tribally owned telephone companies in the United States,” Morel said. “The issue was just tribal sovereignty. T-Mobile just absolutely disrespected that.”