Climate Change and Digital Connectivity for Northern California Tribes
Blue Lake, CA – It is estimated that 1.4 million residences in California do not have access to broadband, of those many are in Rural Northern California. A map published by the California Emerging Technologies Fund shows that 20% of Humboldt county residence do not have broadband access, while 17% have 1 Megabits per second (Mbps) connectivity, and 62% of the county has 5 Mbps or slower connections. Dial-up speeds and high Internet latency has contributed to the chronic digital divide across rural and tribal communities nationwide.
“There are significant challenges in the infrastructure needed for broadband access, especially in wake of increased fire, landslides and power outages experienced just within the past four years ” said Jason Ramos, Council Member of the Blue Lake Rancheria tribe. “With increased natural disasters, communications and emergency services are in high demand. To respond to these needs, tribal communities need to build their own communication systems. That is why we are happy to be hosting this gathering.”
On November 19th and 20th, 2019 the Federal Communications Commission and the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe hosted workshops at the Blue Lake Casino & Hotel to inform local tribes about funding opportunities available for building communications infrastructure, the process to file comments to the FCC, and to announce the Rural Tribal Priority Window for 2.5 GHz spectrum.
“Networks aren’t built just by yourself” said Eric Cutright of the Karuk Tribe. “It takes a lot of help, that’s why we we’ve been successful in implementing the Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative (KRRBI). Many of the resources and knowledge needed to help start our project are available here today and we want to encourage other Tribes to start their communications projects too.”
The KRRBI project provides high-speed broadband Internet service to 8 first responder agencies, 14 anchor institution as well as 616 households in Orick, Orleans, Johnson, Wautec and Wetchpec communities.
Cutright’s final remarks encouraged tribal leaders “Do not be daunted by the complexity of the journey. Go for it. In the end it’s also a matter of sovereignty. Tribes need to take control of their communications.”
More than 30 Tribal Leaders attended the two-day event to learn the details of applying for Universal Service and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding; and about radio and broadband spectrum opportunities from the FCC.
For more information about Universal Service Funds visit: https://www.fcc.gov/general/universal-service-fund
For more information about 2.5 GHz Rural Tribal Priority Window visit: https://www.fcc.gov/25-ghz-rural-tribal-window
For more information about USDA Rural Development Funding Opportunities contact the Rural Development American Indian and Alaska Native Office at: AIAN@wdc.usda.gov