Home Oregon Tribes Make Huge Rural Broadband Investment

Oregon Tribes Make Huge Rural Broadband Investment

The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Central Oregon have made a commitment to broadband for its largely rural population. Taking advantage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s broadband funding, the Tribes will spend $5.4 million in extending broadband infrastructure throughout the reservation and making it affordable for tribal users.

Warm Springs has always been a forward-thinking community. A decade ago it started a business incubator and venture capital firm, welcoming and even buying tech companies, including GIS companies. To further its drive for independence, it needs its people, and client companies, to be able to connect with each other and the world at large.

Led by the newly-formed Warm Springs Telecommunications Company, the project, a half-and-half grant and loan package, will blanket the 1,000-square mile reservation with a network that combines fiber and wireless; 1,800 people, 18 businesses and 22 institutions users, including tribal government and schools, health care facilities, police and fire will benefit.

For a long time the Warm Springs tribal corporation was Central Oregon’s number one business in terms of revenue; it remains an important economic engine of the area, though its distance from population areas still make unemployment a chronic problem.

As Robert White noted in his book “Tribal Assets,” Indian tribal polities that create wealth also push out into the surrounding areas, adding to the economic health of their area. Those who don’t produce often act as a vacuum, absorbing state and local money. If Warm Springs’ historical business acumen is any indication, the benefits of the broadband project will not stop at borders of the rez.

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