- The Coeur d’Alene live in Idaho, Washington, and Montana as it is their ancestral homeland with 2,000 tribal members. The reservation is about 345,000 acres in northern Idaho.
- The need for the network started out of an unfulfilled need in the community.
- In 2004, the tribe relied on dial up that fell short of 56 Kbps. The system was dependent on 100 year old copper lines which were buried and degraded quickly thus the tribe wanted to improve internet speed and access.
- 2004: applied for a Community Connect Grant through USDA Rural Development, receiving funds to build a small wireless network providing up to 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps).
- 2010: it became evident that there was not enough unlicensed spectrum to meet their needs, and the challenge of signal interference was increasing.
- 2012: the tribe received ARRA funding of $12.2 million to build a fiber network to support the wireless network, half loan and half grant, through the USDA Rural Utilities Service to build both middle-mile and Fiber-to-the-Home.
- Strategies for success for this project
- Issues: project took time to start due to lack of motivation and engagement.
- Tribal members need to be invested long term
- Lessons learned
- Invest time, money, and education in tribal members with technical skills
- Hire locally and develop local talent. Build and sustain trust.
- Technology is progressing rapidly with ample competition. Providing good service is a continuing challenge as needs and utilization also change. Although the fiber in the ground is future-proof, you still have to make sure to change the electronics about every decade on the head end.
- With COVID-19, the network has experienced increased strain. Users report more lag if there are multiple devices trying to use the network simultaneously.
- The Technology Department continues to improve upon the wireless network to support all the users.
Key Themes: Motivation - Engagement - Education - Roadblock - Empathy
Issues: Covid-19 - Overcoming stalled projects
Strategies: Local Involvement - Building Motivation
Forms of Access: Community