Mohawk Tribe Brings Fiber to the Home

In 2009, the U.S. government acknowledged that access to high-quality broadband was vital for rural communities. Tis led to the development of the broadband program in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which provided the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) with more than $2 billion to expand service to rural communities. One recipient was the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe of Akwesasne, N.Y., which is using Recovery Act funding to build a fber-to-the-home network with the hope of bringing businesses to the community. Tis article, the frst of a series, will examine the efects of the new network on economic development of the tribe.

Te Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe (SRMT) territory is in New York State. Part of the tribe’s ancestral territory straddles the Canadian border, and parts of the community are located in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Te territory adjoins a major border crossing and the St. Lawrence Seaway, a major shipping highway. When the economy was booming, a General Motors plant and an Alcoa Primary Metals facility were located close enough to the territory to provide employment to many Mohawks. Neighboring communities, such as Massena, were dependent on these plants for their economic development. At the present time, the only plants still operating are Alcoa facilities.

In 2010, the Tribal Council was approached about the broadband project. Because it saw the investment as a way to create new jobs and ultimately bring new businesses to the territory, the council decided to take the necessary steps to clear the project. Native preference plans were put into place to ensure that outside contractors hired local help to perform the required duties. Currently, tribe members are being trained to perform fber splicing, install optical network terminals (ONTs), use computer-aided design (CAD) software, perform site surveys and do a multitude of other jobs required for a broadband project. Te Tribal Council’s goal is to reinvest the profts from the broadband initiative back into the community. As part of the award process, specialty contractors are required to hire and train locals. Tribal Chief Ron La France stated, “We are investing in our community and our children. I want this network owned and operated by Mohawks in the near future.”

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