INDIAN COMMUNITY OF GILA RIVER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – The Gila River Indian Community is receiving nearly $4.5 million to help bridge a deep digital divide and improve affordable high-speed internet access for the community’s 23,000 tribal members. The federal grant, which was announced Wednesday, is part of a $77 million injection of funding into broadband infrastructure for tribal communities in 10 states.
“We are facing decades of underfunding and that was demonstrated critically during the pandemic when we had to go virtual,” said Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis. “We have tried to meet those needs and today’s announcement on this landmark investment will be a real game-changer for us as we seek to meet not only current but also long-term goals.”
The grant money is expected to be used to strengthen broadband infrastructure among tribal communities to improve health care, workforce development, education, housing and social services. . “If you don’t have an internet connection today, you just feel left out,” said Andy Berke of the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
According to Berke, the investment is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to ensure that every home in the country has access to affordable high-speed internet.
“We want the Internet to be cheaper. We want people to be able to use it better, and we also want to create jobs,” Berke said. “It will do all of that. It will create jobs through internships. This will ensure that people can actually use it to do telehealth. And we also know that people only need basic skills, how to send an email? All of these pieces are covered by this grant.
The grants are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and will be used by tribal communities in Arizona, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Washington.
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