Blackfeet receives $74.8 million for CSKT internet infrastructure


PABLO – Dozens of people packed the chambers of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council for an announcement of what the vice chairman said would be “a brand new beginning for our people.”

Margaret Gutierrez, acting deputy chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Division of Tribal Broadband and Interconnection, announced that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation will receive a total of $74.8 million for high-speed Internet service. will be available to users at little or no cost.







Danae Wilson, assistant director for Internet access with the White House Office of Science and Technology, speaks to tribal council members in the CSKT Council Chambers about an internet infrastructure grant that tribes will receive. According to US Census data, approximately 66% of households on the Blackfeet Reservation and 76% of households on the Flathead Reservation have a broadband internet subscription.


Antonio Ibarra



Funding for the project was made possible through President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act, which supports grant programs that build high-speed internet infrastructure and address digital equity and inclusion needs in underserved communities.

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According to US Census data, approximately 66% of households on the Blackfeet Reservation and 76% of households on the Flathead Reservation have a broadband internet subscription. However, these connections often lack the powerful capabilities needed for video conferencing, telemedicine, or social media communications. The problem is particularly acute in homes where children attend remote school classes while parents need heavy Internet access for work.

Coming up: COVID relief improves internet for Blackfeet

According to Gutierrez, the project will combine 927 unserved homes on the Flathead Reservation and 4,482 unserved homes on the Blackfeet Reservation. On Tuesday, the Tribal Broadband Connection Program invested $1.3 billion in 94 tribal entities to connect 42,569 tribal homes.

Margaret Gutierrez, acting deputy chief of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, announced that the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation will receive a total of $74.8 million for high-speed Internet infrastructure at little or no cost to users. .


Chuck Reese, infrastructure administrator for the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, said the two-year project will have a hybrid fiber and wireless connection. It involves laying 300 miles of fiber-optic cable and serving at least 55 businesses and community centers such as schools, libraries and clinics.

Located at 110 E. Broadway in Missoula, iConnect will be an “internet hotel” for the Flathead Reservation, he said. Homes will receive a client device similar to a modem, which will allow users to access a wired or wireless network.

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Reese doesn’t expect frequent public announcements and updates because “the main goal is to get the project going as efficiently as possible.”

He said there will be local announcements, especially if there is a need for public participation and awareness to install the device.







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Chuck Reese, infrastructure administrator for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, said the internet infrastructure project will include hybrid fiber optic cables and wireless connectivity. The project is planned for two years.


Antonio Ibarra



On the Blackfeet Reservation, Siyeh Communications, a tribal telecommunications business, will install internet infrastructure by replacing copper phone lines with high-speed fiber-optic cable.

Tom McDonald, chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, called the announcement “great news.”

“What has the pandemic shown us?” McDonald asked the audience. “It demonstrated how far from equal access to health care, technology and everything else that is critical and the norm outside of our reservation.”







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Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Chairman Tom McDonald receives funding for internet infrastructure projects on the reservation Oct. 11 at tribal headquarters in Pablo. Having the ability to use and access broadband on the reservation is “generational change,” McDonald said.


Antonio Ibarra



COVID-19 has disproportionately infected and killed Native Americans in Montana. As many schools have embraced distance learning and doctor’s offices have integrated telehealth, many people living on reservations have struggled to stay connected.

Montana Indian Affairs Director Misty Kuhl said calling the project a game changer would be an “understatement.”

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“This moment is the key to unlocking more freedom for our people,” Kuhl said.

Lauren Monroe Jr., Vice Chair of the Blackfeet Nation Tribal Business Council.

“(It) helps our people move forward, which is what our ancestors always fought for – for a better tomorrow.”







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National Telecommunications and Information Administration Acting Deputy Administrator Margaret Gutierrez announces an Internet for All grant award that will improve Internet access for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Blackfeet Nation on Oct. 11 at tribal headquarters in Pablo. receives $74.8 million in funding for high-speed Internet infrastructure projects.


Antonio Ibarra



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