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St. Regis Mohawk Tribe case study

  •  Case
    • The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is a single community on the border of the US and Canada (New York – Quebec/Ontario)
    • Mid - 2000s the tribe wanted to provide everyone in the community reliable Internet access, but it took  a decade to determine the best project plan and to secure funding. 
    • Mohawk Networks uses both Fiber-to-the-Home and fixed wireless to connect everyone, stringing about 70 miles of fiber along poles throughout the community.
    • In 2010, a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program grant brought 60 public computers to key places providing access to the Internet, even if they do not have a home connection through Mohawk Networks. 
      • Mohawk Networks is one of the few Native Nations’ networks providing Internet access beyond the borders of its reservation. 
        • Opportunity for economic development that serves both the tribe and neighboring non-tribal towns with high quality Internet access.
      • The wireless network was a separate project from the fiber network. It provides Internet access for rural farms, and Mohawk Networks maintains the ability to expand the reach of the fixed wireless network off-reservation. 
  • Funding 
    • $10 Million for the fiber project came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 
    • The funding required matching funds of $5 million from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. 
  • Strategies for success for this project
    • Importance of financial sustainability and choosing good partners.
      • The Mohawk Networks was one of the first fiber networks built by a Native Nation. They worked with external consultants to choose partners that understand how to work with the tribe.
      • Need to have good finance and accounting teams to manage grants. 
      • Money has to be available upfront to cover expenses, and the team needs to understand what counts as an eligible expense for the grant. Raising the capital for a project is not enough, operational expenses have to be taken into account. 
    • Have a long term plan
    • Indigenous representatives should be hired on a salaried basis to serve as liaisons to assist communities with their applications for funding and participation in policy processes
    • Federal grants should be created and tailored to Indigenous communities for basic planning, digital inclusion, and network operation and maintenance
      • federal funds are allocated to private, non-Indigenous entities operating on Indigenous lands, that entity should be required to train community members to maintain the network on their own land or at minimum hire community members for local labor. 
      • They should also be required to service a higher penetration rate to ensure homes are serviced as well as businesses

Key Themes:

Engagement - Education

Issues:Indigeous involvement 

Strategies: Representation - Native owned network

Forms of Access: Fiber-to-the-Home - community

Reference: https://ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IndigenousFutureZones-0221.pdf

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