Oglala Sioux Tribe case study

  • Case
    • The Oglala Sioux Tribe, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is approximately 3 million acres and home to a very rural and underserved population. 
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare how vulnerable communities are when they are left without basic connectivity—lacking in telehealth, remote learning, telework, public safety and economic capabilities. 
      • Low population density across the reservation and its terrain have resulted in limited wireless broadband communications in parts of the reservation, making communication among tribal law enforcement and other first responders a challenge
      • Tribe is in need of infrastructure and resources necessary to deploy and sustain an affordable broadband network. 
      • Tribe has undertaken efforts to exercise digital sovereignty to serve peoples’ connectivity needs, including by licensing the 2.5 GHz spectrum over the Reservation and initiating the build-out process.
    • One main issue was the “homework gap” caused by lack of wireless connectivity in rural tribal areas. 
      • Schools received a donation of hot-spot devices but had no signal to use them and had families pooling money for one subscription and all the students to use in a singular home.
  •  Funding/ Support
    • Looking to build partnership with TBCP to build support  for connectivity
    • Partnership with National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) as it moves forward with the TBCP. 
    • FirstNet has provided police department vehicles with Wi-Fi devices that connect to a cellular network and create a mini wireless broadband cloud or hotspot to provide internet access for the vehicles’ devices, now officers do not have to travel to substations
    • Feb. 2020: the agency began offering tribal governments complementary licensing of the radio air wave communication spectrum’s 2.5 GHz band of mobile and digital signal previously reserved for educational institutions.
    • Sept 2020: federal government-approved application for tribal entities to take command of rural broadband internet services.
      • Phase 1: install two articles of microwave equipment in each community
        •  It will take three to four weeks depending on equipment availability. 
      • Phase 2: building self-supporting lattice towers 100 to 120 feet tall that will hold upgraded equipment
  • Strategies for success for this project
    • Tribes should be able to define their goals for their own people, and goals may vary between Tribes. 
    •  Developing the infrastructure necessary to deploy broadband throughout the Reservation requires a significant financial commitment, and tribes do not always have success partnering with others to meet our connectivity needs. 
    • Tribes need to be able to exercise sovereignty over the infrastructure upon which our people depend to ensure such infrastructure is actually used to provide affordable and sustainable programs to their citizens.
    • Tribes need sufficient time to conduct historic and environmental reviews that honor their people and protect their sacred places. 

Key Themes: Reliance – Empathy – Motivation – Engagement

Issues: COVID – 19 – Telehealth – Terrain

Strategies: Environmental Review – Partnerships – Goal Recognition – information sharing

Forms of Access: Schools – Hotspots- Community