JUNEAU, AK – The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Tlingit & Haida) broadband department, Tidal Network, announced that it will be working with Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) to bring internet access to underserved residents in Sitka.
Tidal Network will partner with STA to use and retain its 2.5 GHz spectrum that was granted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The FCC granted Tlingit & Haida the 2.5 GHz spectrum for several areas in Southeast Alaska earlier this year under a Rural Tribal Priority Window that was available at no cost to federally recognized tribes.
STA applied for and was granted its own portion of the 2.5 GHz spectrum and has signed a long-term lease agreement with Tlingit & Haida. As part of the lease agreement, Tlingit & Haida will provide the infrastructure and technology to bring internet access to the community of Sitka. Tlingit & Haida’s Tidal Network is already fully funded for the multi-million dollar project with American Rescue Plan Act funding.
“That partnership means we can close the digital divide by using better technology to provide more internet to more people at a lower cost,” explained Broadband Network Architect Chris Cropley.
“Broadband internet is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Anne Davis, Deputy General Manager for STA.
“The pandemic demonstrated that our kids need broadband to learn, adults need it to work, and Elders need it to stay connected and access services.”
Davis noted that securing the tribal funds for expanded broadband access through the American Rescue Plan Act required highly specialized expertise and an ambitious timeline for implementation.
“Participation in the Tlingit & Haida partnership will leverage regional capacity to bring affordable broadband to our tribal citizens and other Sitka residents at no cost to Sitka Tribe of Alaska or the City of Sitka,” Davis explained. “This is a great example of how tribal governments—both regional and local– provide benefits to Sitka.”
The 2.5 GHz band is suitable for both mobile coverage and fixed point-to-point uses. Known as Educational Broadband Service (EBS), the spectrum was little used, but with advances in technology, it is now positioned to be an important role in the deployment of broadband and other advanced communications services.
Tidal Network staff will build and lease telecommunications towers in Sitka that will provide fixed wireless services to people who are underserved, regardless of their tribal affiliation. Sitka will be Tidal Network’s second pilot project site, along with Wrangell.
“By partnering with Tidal Network, we can bring in broadband that’s accessible and affordable for people who have limited or no options for internet right now,” said Broadband Systems Architect Luke Johnson.
Tidal Network Navigator Katelyn Cook is also helping people get a $75/month discount per household and a $75/month plan on Tidal Network through the Emergency Broadband Benefit/Affordability Connectivity Program.
Tidal Network is looking to partner with other tribes around Southeast Alaska to ensure all communities have expanded options for broadband internet.