- The Fond du Lac Band is one of the six bands of Ojibwe with more than 4,000 people.
- In 2006, The Fond du Lac Band wanted high-speed Internet service throughout their communities and started to compare wireless and hardwired network types, calling for ten wireless towers throughout the reservation.
- There were several issues with this plan, however, one of which was geography.
- Northern Minnesota has many hills and forests which the wireless technology was not going to be able to penetrate but as it was inexpensive the tribe moved forward with seeking grants
- Funding was not available as many thought the project was “economically infeasible.”
- The tribe changed to a Fiber-to-the-Home network through the Blandin Foundation and pursued grants through the USDA, and added 13 wireless hotspots to several of these buildings by 2013. There are about a dozen businesses connected to the network, not including home businesses.
- They worked with the Blandin Foundation in Minnesota and pursued grants through the USDA.
- In 2015, they were finally awarded a USDA Community Connect Grant.
- Two Minnesota Border to Border Broadband Grants were approved and one Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Indian Community Development Block Grant.
- In total, it was about $9 million in grants, and the Fond du Lac Band matched half that amount with $4.5 million in cash on hand.
- Strategies for success for this project
- Consider multiple avenues to bring Internet service to remote areas and weigh the full cost of building a network.
- Fully include the community in their project.
- Working with the Blandin Foundation, they held public meetings to learn what the community members wanted and designed the network to meet their expectations.
- Doing background research and involving the community early in the process are all forms of pre-planning.
- Create a clear narrative that grant agencies can follow to see how an Internet service project will impact the community.
- Focus on problem-solving issues common to any new network, such as improving customer service and adjusting to problems last minute
- For the first year of operation, they contracted out customer service, but if the problem is something physical, there are a couple of crews on call that will go out to fix it
- The program also supports cultural knowledge, during which some of the apps from 2014 went into detail about beading, plants, and the Ojibwe language.
Key Themes: Roadblocks - Engagement - Motivation - Education
Issues: Cultural Knowledge - Narratives
Strategies: Community Engagement
Forms of Access: Community - Hot Spots - Fiber-to-the-Home network