Grant Sought To Help Improve Internet In Blue River

Feb 15, 2021

The need for internet access is one of the issues brought to light by the coronavirus pandemic. Efforts are underway to make internet more reliable for a rural Oregon community affected by wildfire.

Local organizations are seeking a grant to build an internet tower at McKenzie Community School in Blue River to provide more reliable connectivity in the area.
Credit Rachael McDonald

The non-profit Onward Eugene joined with others to help bring temporary internet hotspots to the McKenzie River Valley after the Holiday Farm Fire. Now, as managing director Matt Sayre describes it, they want to build a more resilient internet infrastructure.

“It wouldn’t be subject to wildfires or mudslides, or snow-apocalypse, or windstorms and things like that,” Sayre said.  “So this new wireless solution would be more resilient to natural disasters.”

Onward Eugene with McKenzie School District and the company Elevate Technology is seeking a $300 thousand grant from a national nonprofit, US Ignite.

“The grant really focuses on trying to build it back better and we think we can do that in four ways,” Sayre said, “So, the first is to erect a tower near the McKenzie School and permanently land a licensed 11 gigahertz internet link into the region.”

The grant proposal would also provide a trenched fiber optic cable to connect the tower to the school and pilot a network of 95 internet hotspots. With lessons learned shared with other communities. Sayre said they expect to hear back on the grant proposal later this month.