Havasupai Tribe case study

  • Case
    • The Havasupai Tribe is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with 600 tribal members
    • Lacked broadband access at a time when connectivity has proven essential for distance learning, telehealth appointments, meetings over video platforms, connecting to remote work, and much more.
    • Only 20 percent of students at the federally operated Havasupai Elementary School graduate from high school. 
      • Havasupai Elementary School is the only school on the Havasupai Reservation and only goes up to the eighth grade
      • To address these challenges, a local community college partnered with the Tribe to establish online GED classes. 
      • With students unable to access the internet at home, the first year of the program had no graduates. 
  •  Funding
    •   MuralNet partnered with the Tribe to help them utilize public airwaves to access the internet. 
      • The total cost was closer to $127,000
    • 2018: FCC granted a temporary permit for the Tribe to use spectrum in the 2.5GHz band. 
      • The Tribe used this permit to get high-speed internet via a private LTE network in the reservation’s remote location, allowing students to access online GED and community college classes. 
      • According to Chairwoman Ophelia Watahomigie-Corliss, the Havasupai Tribe established high-speed internet in the village within five days of the license approval. 
    • 2019: FCC granted the Havasupai Tribe a permanent license to the 2.5GHz band. 
      • The LTE network provides new education, health, and emergency service opportunities critical to the Havasupai Tribe.
  • Strategies for success for this project
    •  Public awareness and advocacy from within the tribe and neighboring tribes assisted in finding partnerships
      • Current issues arise when the internet pauses or freezes the frustration level can often increase as many were not fully introduced to lives with broadband 
      • MuralNet CEO Mariel Triggs,  trains the Havasupai how to install a network box outside a home and does the best she can at introducing them to new processes and at home usage
    • Building a relationship/ partnership with the FCC and seeing the success of their progress resulted in the FCC opening a priority filing window for tribal communities to apply for licenses in the 2.5GHz band prior to a commercial auction. 
      • Issues do arise as the window to apply is short and the FCC would require the tribes to build their infrastructure (towers and antennas)  in half the time required of major telecom companies.
    • Ensure that all policy formalities have been addressed. One of the largest issues was that once the money was gathered FCC policy held the project up 

Key Themes: Reliance – Motivation – Tribal Infrastructure

Issues: Covid-19 – Distance Learning – TelaHealth

Strategies: Advocacy – Building Partnerships – Education

Forms of Access: Schools / Universities – Community