Akiak, Alaska – August 25, 2021 – The Yukon-Kuskokwim (YKD) Tribal Broadband Consortium, a 501(c)3 nonprofit Tribal Organization, is submitting a large NTIA Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP) grant application to bring affordable broadband internet to all of its Member Tribes. The Consortium received notice today from one of its Tribal Members, the Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC), that they are withdrawing from the Consortium. ONC resolved to instead join with the Bethel Native Corporation (BNC) who recently announced a commercial agreement with GCI to submit a separate NTIA TBCP grant application to run a fiber optic cable to Bethel.
“All 18 YKD Tribal Broadband Consortium Members are sovereign Tribes and we respect ONC’s decision to withdraw from the Consortium,” said Board Chairman, Michael P. Williams Sr. “It is difficult to think that the thousands of people in Bethel who don’t have broadband today will have to wait two-three years for fiber optic because of this new commercial agreement with GCI. Our Consortium proposal is the only one that combines Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite and fiber optic that will provide affordable broadband to 100 percent of homes in all of our Tribal villages starting this year while we install fiber optic over the next 2-3 years. Plans that just include fiber optic leaves our Tribes without broadband for 2-3 years. To further serve our Tribal Members, our NTIA grant proposal includes prepaid internet service for up to one year for all Tribal Member homes while respecting tribal sovereignty.”
Without ONC, the YKD Tribal Broadband Consortium represents 17 YKD Tribes and 48% of the entire Bethel Census Area population. “Our Tribal Members have been inundated with a flood of requests for their authorization and/or consent from for profit companies, corporations and commercial carriers,” said General Manager Kevin Hamer. “The NTIA TBCP requires it. These companies and corporations promise the moon and stars to Tribes but don’t offer anything close to what we are proposing to do for our Tribal communities.”
He continues, “It’s a feeding frenzy of companies and corporations who want money from NTIA TBCP grants to support their commercial interests and profit. I pray the ONC and Tribes stay strong in this onslaught and remember they are in the driver’s seat. The Consortium is here to help all YKD Tribes get access to affordable broadband for their Tribal communities. We are stronger together and the Consortium is open to working with any Tribe-sponsored partnership in the YKD.”
The withdrawal of ONC from the Consortium does not impact the mission, progress or plans for the Consortium or its plans to build a broadband network consisting of LEO satellites and fiber optic. Bethel residents are encouraged to contact ONC for further information.
The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Tribal Broadband Consortium website is: http://www.YKDTribalBroadband.org
The YKD Tribal Broadband Consortium is a nonprofit tribal organization designed to meet the unique communications needs of indigenous peoples living in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Its vision is to build a better broadband further for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. http://www.YKDTribalBroadband.org