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Abraham Camez on Navigating Digital Equity with Acorn Wireless in Hoopa Valley - Building for Digital Equity Podcast Episode 19

Building for Digital Equity logo

Welcome back to another episode of the B4DE Podcast! This time, Chris sits down for a chat with Abraham Camez, the passionate digital navigator for Hoopa Valley's Acorn Wireless ISP.

Abe paints a vivid picture of the looming consequences as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) draws to a close, affecting not just the reservation but also nearby areas. About 40% of Acorn Wireless's customers, including roughly 80 folks aided by Abe himself, face the harsh reality of losing their internet lifeline.

But amidst the uncertainty, there are stories of hope. Abe shares a touching tale of a Hoopa Tribal member who turned their passion for jewelry into a successful online business, thanks to the ACP's helping hand.

As they discuss the challenges ahead, there's a resilient optimism in the air. Abe applauds the efforts of others in tackling digital equity issues head-on, showing that even in the face of adversity, there's room for progress and positivity.

This show is 11 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or see other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Joseph McDade for the music. The song is On the Verge and is used per his Free-Use terms.

Hoopa Valley PUD General Manager Honored As Connectivity Champion

With Linnea Jackson at the helm of the Hoopa Valley Tribe Public Utilities District (HVPUD), Hoopa has become a bellwether of a new wave of Tribally-owned and managed broadband networks.

Over four short years, the Tribe has stewarded a wireless license from the FCC, launched a sovereign wireless network for its people, and undertaken massive fiber infrastructure builds funded by a multi-million dollar grant from the federal government and a historic partnership with the state of California.

Linnea’s work has transformed a story of a digital divide fueled by the disinvestment of a massive monopoly telephone company into one of connectivity through Tribal sovereignty, community power, and local self-reliance.

In recognition of her contributions in the field of Tribal broadband, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) named Jackson the recipient of the Connectivity Champion award at our 50th Anniversary celebration last week, alongside inspiring leaders in community composting, energy democracy, independent business, and Internet access.

Hoopa Valley PUD General Manager Linnea Jackson

“It’s been an absolute honor,” Jackson said as she accepted the award, “to help lead these infrastructure projects, which will build a legacy and help the next generation, not only with education, but telemedicine, communications… basic ways of life that are reliant on access to high speed Internet that is reliable and robust.”

RantanenTown Ranch Turns Into Broadband Playground For Tribal Broadband Bootcamp 11

TBB11 marked an exciting development for the Tribal Broadband Bootcamps.

For this latest and newest iteration, TBB co-founder Matt Rantanen graciously permitted TBB to make a permanent fiber ring installation on his property, RantanenTown Ranch, last month. While TBB will continue to host bootcamps in partnership with Tribes in different regions of North America, the launch of this permanent broadband practice arena allows TBB to chart a new path towards even more in-depth and hands-on training.

Here is a photo-filled look at the many days of prep and three days of immersive programming that went into making it happen.

“Just the fact that we saw the fiber model in its open aspect with all the drama and issues right in front of us; my friends is the best learning methodology!” – TBB 11 Attendee

TBB 11 Photo Essay Matt Pull

Ready or Not

Of course, building an entire, operating fiber network across RantanenTown Ranch was a massive undertaking that involved a lot of prep work.

TBB 11 Photo Essay Spencer Matt Tractor


Hoopa Valley Tribe and State of California Embark on Historic Collaboration

A new chapter in state-Tribal relations is being written as the importance of robust and reliable telecommunication becomes all-too-apparent, especially in the face of more frequent extreme weather events. For the first time, a Tribe in California is building high-speed Internet infrastructure in collaboration with the state, thanks to the resilience of the Hoopa Valley people.

Tucked along the Trinity River in the northwestern corner of the state, the Hoopa Valley Reservation is located in a rural and heavily wooded region that spans over 89,000 acres, home to over 2,500 Tribal citizens. Last summer, the area was ravaged by closely-timed wildfires and thunderstorms, followed by massive landslides that collapsed into the region’s riverways, including the Trinity River, a sacred body of water for the Hoopa Tribe.

As the river turned to mud and dead fish began to wash up on its banks, alarmed residents had limited means of connecting with one another, getting timely information about what was going on, or contacting emergency services. That was because of a hidden casualty of the wild weather: the Tribe’s wireless Internet network, which sustained severe damage that not only hindered communication but also extended the time it took to assess the damage.

NTIA Awards Another $74 Million Under the Tribal Connectivity Program, Opens Second Round of Funding

In another set of awards to connect communities in Indian Country to high-quality, reliable, and affordable broadband, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released over $74 million to help fund Tribal Broadband projects across the country.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program (TBCP), part of the Biden administration’s Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in the spring of 2021 and administered by NTIA, allocated nearly $1 billion in the first round of funding to support connectivity access and adoption initiatives in Tribal communities; namely, “broadband deployment on tribal lands, telehealth, distance learning, broadband affordability, and digital inclusion.” And while that may seem like a sizable investment, over 280 applications totaling more than $5 billion in funding requests were received before the first 90-day application window closed in September 2021, a reflection of the even larger need Tribal Nations have than what the federal program offers.

In November of 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funneled another $2 billion into the program and extended the timeline for broadband deployment, turning the program into more than just a short-term pandemic response. Since then, NTIA has been announcing awards on a rolling basis with the program having distributed over $1.7 billion to 198 Tribal entities so far. The funding covers investment in new infrastructure, as well as upgrades and network planning.

A Tribal Wireless Network in Northern California - Episode 521 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Matthew Douglas, Broadband Manager at the Hoopa Valley Public Utility District. At the start of the pandemic, HVPUD launched a wireless network initiative using $2 million in CARES Act funds to benefit Tribal members who had poor or no connectivity options. Matthew shared the lessons they learned during the process (including at one of the first Tribal Wireless Bootcamps), including navigating old-growth forest, navigating equipment and signal challenges in a particularly grueling topography, working with vendors with things don't go as planned, and managing sector costs. Recently, the effort won an NTIA grant to embark on a new fiber work and a wireless backhaul build to bring in significant new capacity to increase speeds and resiliency in the region.

This show is 33 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.