Tribal Business, Government, and Education Efforts Boosted By Broadband Funding

Feb 1, 2021

Native American tribes across Oregon are seeing enhanced broadband connectivity, thanks to federal assistance.  The timing benefits operations hurt by the pandemic.

Morgan King, of Lame Deer, Montana, on Monday uses a laptop to access the internet during a break from her work at Wooden Legs Library on the campus Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.
Credit Jade Walksalong

Since last fall, six tribes have received spectrum licenses through the FCC, as part of its so-called Rural Tribal Priority Window. This helps them apply for improved internet and phone service.

Matt Johnson is interim Deputy Executive Director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which got nearly $26 million in federal CARES Act money last year. He says that helped the tribe install about five miles of fiber optic cable.

“Business Oregon also contributed some funding for the fiber optic cable installation, I believe it was around $750,000," Johnson told KLCC.  "It’s been really critical especially over this past year obviously with any kind of commercial activity as well as education at this point.”

With the pandemic stretching on, more broadband support is seen as critical.  The pending COVID relief package in Congress currently includes a $1 billion broadband grant provision for Indian Country.

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