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$19M in grants to go to 11 tribes in Nevada for high-speed internet

The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada has received roughly $19 million in grants to enhance internet services for 11 tribes in the state as part of the Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative.

“This is super important. We’re so excited, we’ve been working on the grant for two years,” said Deserea Quintana, executive director for the council. “Getting access to reliable and affordable internet was pretty much non-existent.”

The council is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that governs 28 member tribes in Nevada and will ensure long-term sustainability and long-term benefits to the project.

Quintana saw the pandemic expose the need for adequate internet access in the tribal communities. In Nevada, tribal members have lacked access to critical emergency updates, public safety announcements, telehealth services, telecommuting solutions and remote learning opportunities.

“What we also saw when schools were closed was that if students were given Chromebooks or laptops, they weren’t able to use them since they didn’t have reliable internet access,” Quintana said.

Danena Ike, chairwoman of the Elko Band Council, saw her grandchildren struggle firsthand with homework due to not having reliable internet access during the pandemic. In an effort to help her grand kids she upgraded her home internet, spending a little over $100 a month, but saw no difference in connection.

“Back in 2020, we were devastated by COVID-19,” Ike said. “Children were adversely impacted when they were sent home, they’d try to do homework and they couldn’t because they didn’t have high speed internet.”

The Elko Band Indian Colony has the largest population that will be affected ted by the project with more than 330 households to be serviced, according to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office. The colony is made up of just over 1,000 members, with a workforce that is under 600 workers, where some work remotely, according to the Te Moak tribe of Western Shoshone website.

According to a White House press release, over 30 percent of the population on tribal lands doesn’t have access to broadband infrastructure that provides minimally adequate speeds.

Nevada’s infrastructure project was made to address the lack of satisfactory internet access to less than 1,000 households across the state. The governor’s office said the grant will provide reliable and affordable high speed internet by installing optical fiber cables to fewer than 1,000 homes and more than 3,000 tribal members.

The project is set to be completed within a year through the use of five broadband service providers that are expected to raise connection speeds from 25 to 500 Mbps, according to the governor’s office.

The tribal council received the grant to expand internet access to 11 tribal communities in the state that expressed interest, including: The Elko Band Indian Colony, Lovelock Paiute Tribe, Summit Lake Paiute Tribe, Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, Yerington Paiute Tribe, Yomba Shoshone Tribe, and Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, including the Carson Colony, Woodfords, Stewart and Dresslerville communities.

“In the past two years, we have seen plainly and repeatedly just how important equitable access to high-speed, reliable internet and a connected device is for work, education, healthcare, and civic participation,” Sisolak said in a news release. “We cannot and will not leave any community behind as we work to close the digital divide.”

Contact Jimmy Romo at jromo@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0350. Follow @jimi_writes on Twitter.

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