Yurok Reservation case study

  • Case
    • The Yurok Indian Reservation is located in parts of Del Norte and Humboldt counties, California, on a 44-mile stretch of the Klamath River, home to roughly 6,311 tribal members
    • Community lacked broadband access to be equipped for high speed internet service throughout their communities
  •  Funding
    •  2013: California Public Utilities Commission approved a $6.5 million grant for the Yurok and neighboring Karuk tribes to build an 82-mile fiber backbone to an existing internet hub, and then build out last-mile wireless connections to around 814 homes and businesses throughout the land.
    •  2018: California state government deemed the environmental assessment complete, and the joint Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative is awaiting approval from the California Advanced Services Fund on the initiative’s additional requests for funding to expand the project.
      •  The proposed project would open up broadband service for health clinics, tribal offices, and businesses.
  • Strategies for success for this project
    • By creating their own network, the Yurok Tribe has helped build a network infrastructure, as well as acquire the necessary permits from both state and federal agencies. 
      • YurokConnect is a wireless broadband network that covers the entirety of the Yurok Tribe Reservation, comprising a one-mile wide tract running along both sides of the Klamath River and extending for 45 miles to the Pacific Ocean
      • YurokConnect offers single-family residences service up to 800 Kbps for $40 per month, and up to 2 Mbps for $80 per month.
    • With the reservation’s terrain being  rough, mountainous, and heavily forested, making it exceptionally difficult to build out. Communications infrastructure, using the TV white space spectrum, made it possible for the tribe to install fewer towers and also reduced the amount of hardware required on the user end to connect to the network.
      •  Given the reservation’s  terrain and scattered population, the white space spectrum license was particularly advantageous for building an efficient and cost-effective network.
      • Yurok tribe is currently relying on towers to provide broadband to some areas, but when redwood trees grow taller, they can block the point to point signal, and as the redwoods are a sacred part of the tribe they are not to be harmed, finding spectrum to be a better option for their needs and values
    • YurokConnect has brought a multitude of benefits for the nearly 5,000 Tribe members who previously lacked internet access on their land. 
      • The network has created better opportunities for telemedicine, distance learning, public safety, and communications infrastructure for Yurok’s fishery management and tribal government operations. 
    • Found partnership with other tribe (Karuk Tribe) to build and obtain funds, support, and local awareness
    • By prioritizing the needs of the community and end users, rather than return on investment, these networks keep internet access affordable and high-quality.

Key Themes: Reliance – Motivation – Roadblocks 

Issues: Neighbors – Terrain

Strategies: Local Awareness – Outside tribal support

Forms of Access: Community – Schools – Healthcare