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Gila River Indian Community

Location:  Sacaton, Arizona

Award Amount: $4.4 million

The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) is using a $4.4 million tribal broadband grant to expand internet access to its residents. The grant, which was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), will support the tribe’s push for digital equity by buying new equipment for tribal citizens and improving digital literacy offerings at anchor institutions, like schools. 

All told, between new mobile devices and laptops for citizens in need and classes and training for people just stepping into the broadband space, the funded programs will touch over 12,000 people across 580 miles of reservation lands in Pinal and Maricopa Counties. 

The funding is "vital because it will allow us to take the next steps toward digital equity,” Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis said in a statement. “We plan to expand access to affordable broadband programs throughout the community and to create opportunities for all of our members to utilize technology in their everyday lives, whether that is for work, school, healthcare, or just to stay connected to each other.”

The award builds on infrastructure that was funded by a $14.8 million USDA ReConnect grant in 2021. That grant was awarded to Alluvion Communications, an affiliate of the tribe’s Gila River Telecommunications business.  

Gila River Telecommunications has been steadily installing fiber to the home across the reservation, building 155 miles of network wiring out to 5,547 households, 142 businesses, as well as farms, fire stations, a police department and healthcare facility. Most recently, Alluvion’s project reached the West Valley along Arizona’s Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway. 

James De La Rosa, Gila River councilman for Ward 5, said the projects would help close divides made apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as gaps in telehealth and distance learning access - a common chorus among tribal awardees of the TBCP.

“At a time when the pandemic forced us into our homes for school, work, and our everyday activities, the technology deficiencies became all too apparent,” De La Rosa said. “This award, coupled with the community’s long term plans for broadband connectivity, education, and training, will help to create the infrastructure we need to put in place the comprehensive, integrated plan we have long envisioned.”

About The Author
Chez Oxendine
Staff Writer
Chez Oxendine (Lumbee-Cheraw) is a staff writer for Tribal Business News. Based in Oklahoma, he focuses on broadband, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and federal policy. His journalism has been featured in Native News Online, Fort Gibson Times, Muskogee Phoenix, Baconian Magazine, and Oklahoma Magazine, among others.
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