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

Jade Walksalong

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

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.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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