- By Chez Oxendine
- Economic Development
Cape Fox Corporation
Location: Ketchikan, Alaska
Award Amount: $1,901,262.82
Internet accessibility across Alaska can be a spotty prospect at the best of times, but the village of Ketchikan has nearly complete coverage under Alaska telecom GCI and local connectivity provided by Ketchikan Public Utilities.
The issue in Ketchikan is, instead, having the requisite tools, training, and monthly income to get online and make the most of the internet's services, including telehealth and distance learning.
Cape Fox, an Alaska Native Village Corporation in southeastern Alaska, is leveraging $1.9 million in National Telecommunications and Information Administration funding to buy equipment for underserved citizens on tribal lands and help pay their internet bills while it completes a series of feasibility studies and analyses meant to bolster future connectivity efforts, including a long term "broadband hub," according to Cape Fox President of Strategy and Innovation Todd Morgan.
The project's components include everything from device purchases to individual training for up to 175 tribal members, including training for five tribal members who want to turn IT education into a long-term career, Morgan told Tribal Business News.
"The project’s outcome is to increase broadband adoptions by providing support for Ketchikan households in affording broadband services and promoting telehealth, distance learning, and digital inclusion efforts," Morgan said. "This outcome is achievable if these households understand advantages associated with adoption and use of innovative technologies designed to provide secure, integrated, and culturally acceptable solutions which enhance overall quality of life."
To launch these projects, the ANC needed data, Morgan said. To that end, they have completed residential surveys and a feasibility study on supplying network equipment to tribal members in need. That data will help them refine hardware specifications and distribution plans for eventual adoption programs down the line.
The adoption programs in question also include a year's worth of bills paid through partnering with Ketchikan Public Utilities, lessening the burden on many families of trying to maintain an increasingly crucial utility. In total, the program is predicted to affect all 175 tribal households in Ketchikan, according to a project summary posted to the TBCP awardee website.
That all lays the foundation for the next big connectivity project on the reservation: the Ketchikan Innovation Hub, envisioned as a fully-staffed "shared knowledge platform" that combines digital literacy training with research and development on connectivity solutions, Morgan said. The hub will serve as a connection between other tribal and community organizations to pool their efforts toward telehealth, distance learning, telework, and digital skills training.
"In a world increasingly driven by technology, it is crucial to bridge the digital divide and ensure that every Alaskan has equal access to opportunities in the digital realm," Morgan said. "The Ketchikan Innovation Hub will be the incubator for creating state-of-the-art smart technology proofs-of-concept (experimentation) and innovative ideas for Native Alaska communities."