KOTZEBUE, Alaska – NANA Regional Corporation, Inc. (NANA) has been awarded a $68.5 million broadband infrastructure deployment grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for the NANA Regional Broadband Network (NRBN) project. The four-year project will result in the installation of more than 680 miles of submarine fiber-optic cable from Kotzebue to the 10 villages in the NANA region, and 10-meter towers in each village to provide wireless internet services to tribal homes, schools and clinics.
“This grant award will fund one of the largest infrastructure projects we’ve ever had in the NANA region,” said NANA’s President and CEO John Lincoln. “We are pleased that this effort will allow us to provide affordable and reliable high-speed broadband to more than 7,000 people.”
The grant was awarded through the NTIA’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which targets the expansion of access to true broadband in tribal communities throughout the United States. The project will deliver broadband access in a region where communities are considered “unserved” by NTIA standards.
“The NRBN project supports NANA’s mission to improve the quality of life of our people,” said NANA’s Board Chair Ely Cyrus. “The pandemic highlighted the lack of access to the internet, especially for our youth and Elders. This project will directly and meaningfully improve the lives of current and future Iñupiat generations, providing enhanced healthcare, educational access, workforce development and economic equity.”
“When I visit Alaska’s rural and remote communities, one of the top issues raised to me is the lack of internet connectivity, as well as the astronomical cost of the limited broadband speeds that do exist—impacting education, healthcare, opportunities for economic development, and more. A specific example that was shared with me: the internet speed is so slow, a community couldn’t even download a grant application to apply for broadband support,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “As a result of the bipartisan infrastructure law, we continue to see investments in broadband for communities across the state. Improving access, reliability, and affordably for Alaskans – in urban and rural hubs – is paramount.”
NANA is an Alaska Native corporation, formed as a result of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), which was passed by Congress in 1971. NANA is owned by the more than 15,000 Iñupiaq shareholders, or descendants, who live in or have roots in northwest Alaska. Iñupiat have close ties to the land and to each other. The word Iñupiat means “real people” in Iñupiaq, the language.