Tribal families receive high-speed internet for the first time



Matt Mais

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Tribal families receive high-speed internet for the first time

Tribe celebrates major milestone in internet infrastructure project

The Yurok Tribe recently celebrated a major milestone in the Yurok Connect Broadband Project. Yesterday afternoon, the Yurok Connect team finished the installation of a new 150 foot tower in Wautec and linked the first customers to the high speed internet service . Located in the most remote part of the Yurok Reservation, the tower is providing first time internet access to dozens of families and several tribal elders.

“Access to high speed internet will significantly improve the everyday lives of Yurok citizens and non Indian reservation residents,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok “This project will facilitate progress in several key areas, including, education, healthcare and economic development. When it comes to developing a prosperous community, internet access is just as important as the basic utilities.”

“This project is a long time coming,” said Mindy Natt, the Pecwan District Representative on the Yurok Tribal Council.

“The Yurok Connect service will improve the quality of life on the reservation. It will benefit our youth, our elders and everyone in between.”

Launched in 2013 and administered by the Yurok IT Department, Yurok Connect is a Yurok Tribe owned, wireless internet service provider. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Act funded Yurok Connect Broadband Project will generate numerous positive outcomes. For example, it will greatly improve emergency communications on the reservation during and after the COVID 19 pandemic The Tribe will be able to spread out its workforce to keep its staff safe. Yurok Connect customers will be able to schedule telehealth appointments, instead of driving for two hours to the nearest doctor’s office. Students will be able to participate in online learning at home because of the high speed service. Yurok business owners entrepreneurs and artists will be able to engage in the global market. Parents of young children will be able to work from home. Extended families and close friends will be able to communicate over any number of platforms. These are just a few of many examples of how high speed internet will strengthen the community.

The Yurok Reservation, located in far Northern California, is in one of the most technologically underserved parts of the state The lack of reliable internet is a major disadvantage with respect to public health, education and economic development That is why the Tribe decided to become one of only a few wireless internet service providers in Indian Country.

Over the last eight months, the Yurok Information Technology Department and Yurok Connect Team, in partnership with EnerTribe, a Native American and woman owned firm, have been working on re-engineering and building up existing Yurok tower sites and adding new towers to accommodate better broadband speeds. Facilitating a 200% increase in backhaul speeds, the towers were equipped with cutting edge, superior quality hardware, which will support the fast service over the long term In April, work will be done to beautify the communications hut and the area surrounding the base of the Wautec tower.