Nisqually Tribe is working to expand broadband services to unserved areas, including near Rochester and Littlerock
By Daniel Warn / For the Chronicle
The Washington Statewide Broadband Office (WSBO) has awarded the Nisqually Indian Tribe $6.775 million to expand broadband services throughout the Nisqually area.
Specifically, the grant will allow the tribe to install high-speed fiber in North Rochester and Littlerock.
The grant follows another from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) of $2 million to install fiber between the Nisqually reservation and Rochester.
“The Nisqually Tribe appreciates the efforts of the Washington State Broadband (WSBO) and is excited to be able to work together to extend quality broadband to currently unserved/underserved areas of Thurston County,” wrote Debbie Preston, Head of information from Nisqually, in an e-mail. . “The funding, alongside the tribe’s efforts, will significantly improve the quality of life for residents of the community who have suffered from the lack of quality broadband, especially throughout the recent pandemic.”
Broadband began in Nisqually when the tribe realized there was virtually no access to broadband service on the reservation, Preston said.
“The tribe initially filled this gap by providing broadband service to all homes and facilities on the reservation,” she said. “It was completed through (CERB) and tribal funding. As part of this reservation effort, the tribe became aware of the remaining rural areas of Thurston and Pierce counties in which qualified broadband services are still not available.
As a result, Preston said, the tribe has completed several Optical Access Network (OAN) feasibility studies with CERB funding to address financial feasibility, licensing requirements, regional market, logistics and sustainability. long-term for these off-reserve areas.
The tribe has also reached out to other jurisdictions as part of the effort, she said.
The tribe’s fiber optic installation company, Nisqually Communications, currently performs much of the fiber optic installation work in the southern Puget Sound area.
To further its goal of expanding broadband services to other areas of the county that are also not currently served, Preston said the Nisqually Tribe has been consulting with Thurston County on the potential for collaboration and partnership in under a multi-year plan.
A letter of intent to that effect is currently being developed with the county, she said.
Preston detailed the proposed third phase of construction of the Thurston County OAN in his email.
Phase three construction will consist of an OAN starting in the city of Rochester in southern Thurston County and extending north along public roads to serve the areas of Littlerock and Gate, as well as areas additional near the city of Rochester.
To aid in this effort, the Nisqually Tribe has built its own Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) company which provides broadband services to previously unserved homes and facilities on the Nisqually reservation.
The Phase III construction “will provide approximately 800 residents with new GPON services, which will supersede the state’s broadband targets and be the highest residential broadband speed available in the state,” Preston said.
She said the tribe also worked with the county in drafting and revising a memorandum of understanding for the Thurston County Broadband Action Team (BAT), of which the tribe is a part.