Iñupiaq (Iḷisaġvik College) case study

  • Case
    • The Iñupiat are a group of Alaska Natives, whose traditional territory roughly spans northeast from Norton Sound on the Bering Sea to the northernmost part of the Canada–United States border.
    • Iḷisaġvik College pays $10,000 a month for an internet speed of 10 megabits per second.
      • The college’s total budget is approximately $20 million.
      • The college, located in Utqiagvik, Alaska–a town of about 4,200 people has the highest cost and slowest speed internet among the 35 tribal colleges and universities.
    • Iḷisaġvik College and the eight surrounding communities connect to the internet via undersea fiber, which the private company Quintillion installed during an attempt to lay fiber from Japan to London via the Arctic. 
    • In the communities surrounding Iḷisaġvik College, individual households pay high rates, too: $300 capped at a speed of 6 megabits per second. 
      • With students now home learning remotely their bill went to $3,000 to $5,000 because the kids are home and on the internet
  •  Funding
    • The American Indian Higher Education Consortium secured the CARES Act funding when the pandemic hit. The legislation earmarked $20 million to help some tribal colleges face the fundamental challenges in their broadband infrastructure.
    • Currently, still in the process of waiting additional support and funding.
  • Strategies for success for this project
    • As the project effects not just the younger generation at the college but the surrounding community, especially in light of the pandemic, the support from the community was a great help with motivation and action
    • AIHEC has also been hosting weekly calls with tribal college IT staff. 
      • Calls create a network of people to reach out to for ideas and support as the schools navigate the complexities of remote learning and broadband infrastructure.
    • Continuation of the project remains hopeful, but high prices still remain the largest challenge.

Key Themes: Motivation – Engagement – Roadblocks – Education

Issues: Education – Studnets

Strategies: Communication – Community Support

Forms of Access: Colleague / University – Household