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Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Builds Connections

Over 35% of Americans residing on tribal lands do not have access to high-speed broadband. Through the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP), NTIA is allocating $3 billion for the deployment and adoption of broadband in Tribal Lands. Many tribes have already secured grants under the program. The latest Notice of Funding Opportunity has budgeted $1 billion dollars, with the submission deadline in January 2024.

One organization leveraging the TBCP is the Choctaw Nation. “We cover about 10 and a half counties throughout southeastern Oklahoma, which is close to the size of Massachusetts,” said Robert Griffin, Tribal Broadband coordinator, The Choctaw Nation Government Division. “There’s approximately 250,000 in population in that area, where about a third is comprised of Choctaw members.”

Lack of broadband and job opportunity is leading to a voluntary migration of the area’s youth. “They might attend a university locally, but once the youth of the rural Oklahoma area leave, they have a hard time coming back,” said Griffin. “With the building of fiber broadband into those areas, we’re confident based on statistics we’ve seen we’ll be able to grow family and communities much faster.”

The Choctaw Nation has leveraged fiber broadband as a framework to connect its 17 community centers, enabling the Chief to simultaneously deliver holiday messages to as many people as possible. They have also been able to connect the centers to tribal government offices and provide the resources necessary for conducting remote interviews for the tribe and other employers.

Deploying fiber into the community centers created deeper and wider network connections across the territory that are being leveraged to connect other community anchor institutions. This included health centers, schools, and public safety organizations, along with cell towers and the construction of a very unique facility that will bring high-tech aerospace industry jobs to the area.

“We’re going to support an area called Daisy Ranch, a National Emerging Aviation Testbed created a few years ago with an award from the government,” said Griffin. “Since there is very little light traffic within that area, we can do things that other aerospace locations would not allow. For instance, if you want to test a drone going 100 miles an hour, you can do that.”

The test range will support flight testing of uncrewed and crewed aircrafts, such as the emerging class of electrical vertical takeoff (eVTOL) taxis.

To learn more about how fiber is supporting the Choctaw Nation and the latest round of the TBCP, tune into the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.