- By Chez Oxendine
- Economic Development
Location: Anadarko, Oklahoma
Award Ammout: $9,980,139.09
Like much of Indian Country, the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma found itself woefully unprepared for the technical demands imposed by COVID-19-prlockdowns. The tribe’s rural location in Anadarko didn’t have sufficient bandwidth to weather the surge in internet usage as students and doctors went online and more people began working from home.
That meant putting internet access front and center in recovering from the effects of the pandemic, even as lockdown restrictions loosened, said tribal chairman Durrell Cooper, III. Working with his tribe’s business committee, Durrell formed a team to build a project proposal for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program under the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The application was successful: the tribe received a nearly $10 million award in December 2022 in support of an 80-mile fiber line hooking 36 community anchor institutions into direct fiber connectivity.
“There were struggles in the process, but our team remained focused," Durrell told Tribal Business News. "When we were notified that we received the grant, the strength, focus, and resilient nature of our leadership team shined. As we move forward in implementing this grant, we are excited about the generational change that this broadband grant will create for the Apache Tribal people and the community.”
The money will also help Apache partner with Castle Rock, Colorado-based mobile connectivity company Commnet Broadband to build a last-mile wireless solution across a 3.6 GHz spectrum, connecting 900 unserved households and 860 unserved businesses to the new network. Commnet also plans to leverage the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative that subsidizes qualifying customers’ internet bills for $75 per month. That should cover the entire bill for all but the highest-speed customers, per Commnet's website.
“The Apache Business Committee and I have been forward-thinking, changing the way we do business, and looking for opportunities that will strengthen the Apache people and the communities they live,” Cooper said. “Our leadership is young and enthusiastic about making the tribe stronger for the Apache people. Our mantra is ‘Apache Strong,’ and we believe in being such.”