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Community Networks 10 December 2021

Indigenous Connectivity: New Tribal Grant for Three US Community Networks

By João Paulo de Vasconcelos AguiarSenior Advisor, Communications and Connectivity
Mark BuellFormer Regional Vice President - North America

A few years ago, Bumpy Kanahele, the Head of the State in the Nation of Hawai’i saw an urgent need to bring better connectivity to his community. “My grandchildren had to go to the next zip code to get high-speed connection,” he said, “It was worse than the speed, it was realizing that our kids were lacking the connectivity to all of these opportunities online.”

Bumpy and his peers addressed this problem by building a community network, and connecting to the Internet on their own terms.

The Internet Society supports people like Bumpy who want to build community networks, through partnerships, or through the Internet Society Foundation. This is why we are happy to announce that we’re funding three communities in North America through a one-time tribal grant.

The Yurok, Hoopa Valley, and Bear River Band communities will use the resources to build, expand, and improve connectivity, bringing many new opportunities for those connected and growing the Internet to those who need it the most. Learn more about their projects below.

Yurok Tribe

The majority of residents in the Yurok Reservation cannot connect to the Internet. During the pandemic, the community joined forces to improve infrastructure and expand access to those who needed. But facing hardships from weather conditions, shipment delays, and increased costs they were unable to finish their project.

With this grant they will be able to build a tower and a power system, boosting connectivity to those living further away.

Hoopa Valley Tribe

Most of the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation is barely covered by Internet service providers. They are present, but their speeds don’t allow people to use the Internet as they need to, and the lack of distribution towers means that people living in areas that are harder to reach through radio cannot take advantage of it.

As with other communities in the region, the Hoopa Valley Tribe was heavily impacted by COVID-19, and the lack of trustworthy connectivity meant they didn’t have adequate access to telemedicine, distance learning, and a reliable environment for working from home.

Their tribally owned service provider – Acorn Wireless – already has more towers installed around the territory than any other ISP, and this grant will help the community to buy new dishes and cables that will improve the connectivity speed across the reservation.

Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria

Covid-19 showed the people of the Bear River Band the disparities of not having reliable Internet connectivity. Their children were struggling with the challenges of learning through video calls, while their service providers weren’t able to keep up with the needs of the rural tribal communities. So, they decided to build their own system to provide adequate broadband themselves.

Now the Bear River Band people will use this grant to support training and employing tribal members who will be responsible for operating their network.

Partnerships to grow the Internet

The Internet Society works with several partners to support people who are working to bridge the digital divide. Earlier this year, for instance, we partnered with Truist Foundation to support five communities in the southeastern United States in deploying and expanding their networks.

Learn more about partnerships and help bring the Internet to those who need it the most.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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