Over $15.5M awarded to install broadband on Umatilla Reservation

Over $15.5M awarded to install broadband on Umatilla Reservation

By:  Karlee Van de Venter

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation (CTUIR) will receive over $15.5 million in federal funding for high-speed Internet and digital training on Tribal lands, according to a press release from the U.S. Senate. The funding was announced by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who claim the funding will improve education, job and health care access on Tribal land. 

“Tribal communities deserve robust access to high-speed Internet so children are connected to classroom research, small businesses are linked to their customers, and families can take full advantage of telehealth opportunities,” said Wyden.

The funding is through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant. It will invest in fiber installation connecting nearly 350 households on the reservation that are currently without service. The houses will get a minimum of 100 Mbps/100 Mbps qualifying broadband service, according to the press release. 

“This grant will enable our Tribe to provide affordable high-speed internet services to the remote areas of our reservation that do not currently have access to the internet…” said Chair of the CTUIR Board of Trustees, Kat Brigham. “We will be able to provide broadband fiber to over 342 unserved households enabling those families to take advantage of telework, telehealth, distance education and job opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.” 

The CTUIR has been working on a fiber optic broadband network over the past five years, trying to connect government offices, health clinics, schools and Tribal enterprises, according to Brigham. She says the network is critical to providing government services and jobs on the reservation. 

“From telehealth appointments, to remote learning and business opportunities for Tribal communities, reliable access to broadband and high-speed internet is a critical need in today’s connected world,” said Merkley. “This funding to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation will provide broadband to residents in remote areas of the reservation and help boost the ability to connect with health providers, education opportunities, and business resources needed to thrive.”