$135.9M Broadband Funds for NANA, Tlingit &Haida, Metlakatla, and Kenaitze Indian Tribe
Another month, another batch of grants from the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This time, NANA Corporation, the Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida), the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, and Metlakatla Power and Light are splitting $135.9 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
$289.6 Million in Four Months
The grants add to the $51 million announced in August for Doyon, Limited and the Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission, $29.3 million in September for the Native Village of Port Lions, and $42.4 million in October for Bethel Native Corporation. More broadband funding was announced in September, when Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative was awarded $31 million from the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service ReConnect grant program.
These grants were largely made possible by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that Congress enacted one year ago. Alaska has now received more than $2.5 billion from the IIJA, with billions more expected to flow to the state in the months and years ahead.
NANA gets the biggest grant so far: $68.5 million to install fiber directly connecting 1,379 unserved households, 451 businesses, and 212 anchor institutions, such as libraries and schools, with 1 Gbps symmetrical service.
Tlingit & Haida receives $49.9 million to install land-based wireless and satellite-enabled service for 14,032 unserved households. Metlakatla Power and Light gets $10.5 million to install fiber directly connecting 586 unserved households. And $7 million lets Kenaitze Indian Tribe install fiber directly connecting 1,055 unserved households on the Kenai Peninsula.
“When I visit Alaska’s rural and remote communities, one of the top issues raised to me is the lack of internet connectivity, as well as the astronomical cost of the limited broadband speeds that do exist—impacting education, healthcare, opportunities for economic development, and more,” says Senator Lisa Murkowski. “A specific example that was shared with me: the internet speed is so slow, a community couldn’t even download a grant application to apply for broadband support.”
Senator Dan Sullivan adds, “I’m glad to see the significant federal infrastructure dollars we secured being deployed to break down the digital divide and improve the lives and well-being of thousands of Alaskans across Alaska.”
A Everyday Necessity
NANA has planned a four-year project to install more than 680 miles of submarine fiber-optic cable from Kotzebue to ten villages in the NANA region. Within each village, 10-meter towers will relay wireless internet services.
“This grant award will fund one of the largest infrastructure projects we’ve ever had in the NANA region,” says President and CEO John Lincoln.
NANA Board Chair Ely Cyrus adds, “The pandemic highlighted the lack of access to the internet, especially for our youth and elders. This project will directly and meaningfully improve the lives of current and future Iñupiat generations, providing enhanced healthcare, educational access, workforce development, and economic equity.”
Tlingit & Haida’s grant award will be used for several projects through the tribe’s broadband business enterprise, Tidal Network. The funds will leverage Tlingit & Haida’s and other consortium tribes’ 2.5 GHz license to provide access to a fixed wireless network. Other wireless spectrum bands and low-earth orbit satellites will also be used to provide service where a 2.5 GHz Educational Broadband Service license is not available.
“Access to high-speed broadband is a necessity to everyday life, and we cannot accept the disparity in access and affordability anymore,” says the council’s president, Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson. “The internet, or lack thereof, has a direct impact on community growth and success. Tlingit & Haida is committed to ensuring our communities and people are not left behind.”
As part of the grant award, Tlingit & Haida will also create a voucher program with existing service providers to provide access to affordable qualifying broadband services to 100 percent of unserved households and discounted subscriber rates to households with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty annual income threshold.