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Tribes receive nearly $75 million to expand internet access

Concept image of cables and connections for internet data transfer

The Biden administration awarded nearly $75 million to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai and Blackfeet tribes Tuesday to expand broadband access on tribal lands.

A little over half of the Flathead Reservation has access to high-speed internet, and that number is even lower on the Blackfeet Reservation at 23%, according to Broadband Now.

Tribal officials from both reservations say that’s about to change due to a massive infusion of cash from the infrastructure bill passed by Congress earlier this year.

The Blackfeet Nation is getting over $33 million for broadband buildout.

Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Secretary Lauren Monroe Jr. says roughly 4,500 homes on the Blackfeet Reservation will gain broadband speeds, but he says this is about more than just internet access for reservation residents.

“A lot of the stuff we’re focusing on is telehealth, online education systems, economic development and things like that that would move the tribe forward in a direction of being competitive with the outside world.”

CSKT officials say the $41.5 million they are receiving will lay more than three-hundred miles of fiber optic cable, connecting hundreds of households to high speed internet.

The Blackfeet and CSKT grants are two of nearly 100 that have been given to tribes nationwide under the Internet for All program set up by the infrastructure bill, totaling $1.35 billion.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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