UPDATE The Northern Arapaho tribe is getting $4.1M from the FCC’s Connect America Fund to help it connect nearly 850 homes on the reservation to broadband service over the next decade, reported the Casper Star Tribune. It’s part of $12M in CAF grants for rural broadband the Commission announced on Monday.
“Broadband deployment on Tribal lands continues to lag behind the rest of the nation,” stated FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Monday.
“That’s why I’m so pleased that we are authorizing funding for a tribally-owned business to provide Gigabit-speed service on the Wind River Reservation. With this project, Native Americans who live on the Wind River Reservation will have access to the same super-fast broadband speeds as those who live in our nation’s big cities.”
According to 2018 Census Bureau estimates, only 67 percent of Native Americans possess broadband service, and for Indigenous people living on rural tribal lands, it drops to 53 percent. Patrick Lawson, executive manager of Wind River Tribal Industries, said the overall project with a $12 million price tag “would give about 3,000 homes on the reservation access to the high-speed, reliable internet.”
As for the buildout, the Northern Arapaho Tribe is responsible for the infrastructure needed and both Wind River tribes will manage and maintain their internet services, according to the Tribune. Forest James, CEO of EnerTribe, said of the project, “This is a real game-changer.” James said it could serve as an important economic engine, making long-distance learning possible, making it easier to monitor the health of elders via telemedicine, and could help small businesses thrive.
“The tribes have either been left out or built around,” he said, causing them to “leap-frog technology. Because we were kind of late to the game … we’re putting the best infrastructure in,” Lawson added.
August 16, 2019