Broadband Grant Awarded to Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Grant is meant to expand internet service networks and provide digital skill trainings.

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CASS LAKE- The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe recently was awarded an $18.7 million broadband grant courtesy of The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA.)

The grant comes from  NTIA’s “Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP)”. Leech Lake was one of only two Tribes to be a recipient of the program’s new grants, totaling more than $36 million. These grants focus on expanding high-speed Internet service network deployment and digital skills training to improve access to education, jobs, and healthcare on Tribal lands with funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to connecting all Tribal communities to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Our Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is continuing its historic and unprecedented commitment to close the digital divide by investing in Native communities.”

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe plans to use the funds to install fiber and fixed wireless to directly connect 4,399 unserved Native American households with qualifying broadband service in remote areas on the Reservation  that currently experience connectivity issues. The grant proposal includes 153 miles of planned fiber optic installation as well as constructing nine new wireless towers in the following communities: Noopiming, Mission, Prescott, Oak Point, Sugar Point, Inger, S. Lake and Boy Lake.

LLBO Tribal staff have been developing the grant proposal for past 18 months with assistance from the Blandin Foundation, Muralnet and Teleworx. LLBO Economic Development planner Sally Fineday, and Wireless Manager Richard Schumann say the grant will help ensure internet for all and potentially create a new source of revenue  for the Tribe through leasing of unused wireless spectrum.

“When the only access you have to broadband is your telephone, you are seriously limited in what you can and cannot do. It makes life so much easier when you have the right tools,” says Fineday.

Tribal Chairman Faron Jackson who approved the start of a broadband task force alongside fellow RTC members during a December 29th tribal council meeting, expressed his gratitude to the NTIA for the award and to the LLBO staff who worked on the grants application.

“I’m excited about this opportunity in front of us, and the chance for us to do some good,” said Jackson.

LLBO will begin work on developing a broadband task force this month, and plan  to release a report on the task forces findings in March 2023.Proposed Fiber Optic Route

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