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Gila River Indian Community receives $4.5M grant to close digital divide

The Gila River Indian Community is receiving almost $4.5 million to help close a deep digital divide and improve access to affordable high-speed internet.
Published: May. 5, 2022 at 1:09 PM MST
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GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Gila River Indian Community is receiving almost $4.5 million to help close a deep digital divide and improve access to affordable high-speed internet for the community’s 23,000 tribal members. The federal grant, which was announced Wednesday, is part of a $77 million dollar infusion of funding into broadband infrastructure for tribal communities across 10 states.

“We are dealing with decades of underfunding and it was shown critically during the pandemic when we had to go virtual,” said Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis. ”We’ve tried to address those needs and today’s announcement on this historic investment, this is really going to be a game-changer for us as we look to addressing not only current but long term goals as well.”

The grant money is expected to be used to bolster broadband infrastructure among tribal communities to improve healthcare, workforce development, education, housing, and social services. “If you don’t have an internet connection today, you just feel left out,” said Andy Berke, of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

According to Berke, this investment is a part of a larger push by the Biden administration to ensure every home in the country has access to affordable, high-speed internet.

“We want internet to be cheaper. We want people to be able to use it better, and we also want to create jobs,” Berke said. “This will do all of those. It will create jobs through internships. It will make sure that people can actually use it to do telehealth. And we also know that people just need basic skills, how do I send an email? All those pieces are covered in this grant.”

The grants are funded through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and will be used by tribal communities in Arizona, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.