WINNEBAGO, Neb. — The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is getting a multi-million dollar boost to bring high-speed internet to the community.
The "Internet for All" initiative is an investment to ensure all Americans can access affordable, reliable and high-speed internet, including those in Winnebago, Nebraska.
It's a cause for celebration in the tribal community in Winnebago, as more than $35.2 million was granted to expand high-speed internet access on its tribal lands.
"We work with the State of Nebraska to implement what is a historically and monumental amount of investment to ensure that folks do get access to the internet that they need to be productive in our society and economy," said Laura Spinning, NTIA Deputy Associate Administrator during the signing ceremony.
The Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Project proposes to install fiber, directly connecting 602 unserved tribal households, 40 unserved tribal businesses and 16 unserved tribal community anchor institutions with 100/100 Mbps qualifying broadband service.
"We're very excited as we take on this new partnership with Indian tribes to close the digital divide. The Biden administration is very much committed and working with Congress to pass the bipartisan infrastructure law, has devoted the resources that are necessary, that we think we can do this in the coming years ahead," said Spinning.
The fiber will come from South Sioux City as part of a network from Wakefield to the Nebraska/Iowa border and also serve the towns of Homer, Emerson and Thurston.
"Through that indigenous Ho-Chunk knowledge is what has brought us to this point and our friends here at NTIA are going to help us continue to bridge that gap of the digital divide and bring much more enriched activity here to the Winnebago reservation," said Victoria Kitcheyan, Winnebago Tribe Chairwoman.
Spinning says the price hasn't been determined for this service.
"They're planning to offer a symmetrical what's called 100 by 100 service and at this point, we don't have pricing for that," said Spinning. "But we know that part of their application was to say that for their tribal members, that it's important that it be affordable."
At the moment there is no timeline as to when the service will be built and active.
"As much as it's taken a year to get the application reviewed and approved, we're going to have another period of time that it will take to get the plans approved by local; It's whoever owns the land, to prove the rights-of-way to be used before the construction will begin," Spinning said.
The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration hopes this connects the dots for those in the community to have equal access to the rest of the world.
"You don't just have the fiber optic cable in the ground, but you have the devices on the end of it that you're able to work with your colleges and your schools to build the kinds of skills that are critically important to fully take advantage of all that it means to be online in our digital economy," said Spinning.
Winnebago was one of more than 20 tribal communities across the US that received a grant on Tuesday, Oct. 11th.