U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo recently announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $3.2 million grant to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Towaoc, Colorado, to construct broadband infrastructure.
The project will provide high-speed internet service connecting the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation and the city of Towaoc to the city of Cortez, increasing access to distance learning and telemedicine, supporting public safety, and allowing for business and entrepreneurial growth across the reservation and region. This EDA investment is expected to create 33 jobs and generate $550,000 in private investment.
“Too many Americans, especially those living on reservations and in Tribal communities, lack reliable, high-speed broadband – if they are even lucky enough to have internet at all. In our increasingly interconnected world, internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and this basic lack of access is an injustice,” said Secretary Raimondo. “Internet access means more than just opening emails and checking social media. It means having access to life-saving technologies, economic opportunities, remote learning, and countless other essential benefits. The awards presented build upon the broadband funding provided by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and reaffirm this administration’s commitment to ensuring that Tribal communities, and unserved and underserved communities across the country, have the resources they need to thrive in the 21st century.”
“The Economic Development Administration is pleased to support the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe as it seeks to enhance the area’s economy,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This project will deliver improved internet access for the residents and businesses on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation to increase economic opportunity.”
“Affordable, high-speed broadband is essential to help families work, learn, and participate in modern society,” said Senator Michael Bennet. “But far too often, Tribal communities in Colorado and across the country lack access. This investment will support the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s efforts to expand broadband access to strengthen their economy and boost opportunity.”
“Investing in reliable internet access for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe will expand economic development, strengthen health care access, and improve children’s education,” said Senator John Hickenlooper.
This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Organization. EDA funds the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Organization to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs.
The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has awarded two additional grants as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. These grants, totaling nearly $1 million, are being awarded to the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Arizona and the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin.
The funds provided by these awards will complement previous funding awarded by the EDA, as well as NTIA’s other broadband programs. These programs will also help lay the groundwork for the funding provided by President Biden’s recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This law provides $65 billion to expand broadband in communities across the U.S., with $48 billion being allocated to NTIA to create more low-cost broadband service options, subsidize the cost of service for low-income households, and address the digital equity and inclusion needs in our communities.