The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of broadband and internet connectivity. Over the last 18 months, virtual meetings, online education, and internet connectivity have become increasingly important. Similarly, connectivity and the digital divide issues in rural communities have become more apparent, especially within the Doyon region. Doyon, Limited, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments have been meeting regularly as a broadband working group to further understand the issues and explore solutions for lack of adequate broadband connectivity in communities across our region.

On June 3, 2021, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This funding program offers an opportunity to connect communities with fiber-optic cable. In partnership with Alaska Communications, Doyon submitted a grant package to the NTIA to connect one of the most underserved regions in the United States. Doyon has been in contact with various communities throughout the Doyon Region to garner support for the grant application. Doyon along with Gana-A’Yoo are working with Alaska Communications to create the foundation to a regional fiber-optic cable that will be the foundation for expanding broadband to communities throughout the region.

Currently, many communities within the Doyon Region receive service via satellite or microwave-based services with speeds well under 25/3 definition of qualifying broadband service. This potential project would provide fiber optic cable to communities along the Yukon River from Fort Yukon to Holy Cross. By creating a fiber “backbone” in the Region, other projects could connect to this fiber-optic system and expand via microwave to communities that are not along the Yukon River.

Doyon recognizes the need for better internet connectivity and broadband is the foundation for economic growth, job creation, bringing educational opportunities to our communities, and is necessary for delivering improved health care, managing energy, ensuring public safety, engaging government, and organizing and disseminating knowledge. Doyon looks forward to working with each community in the Interior impacted by this plan.

The grant application was due September 1, 2021. Doyon, Limited and Gana-A’Yoo, Limited along with Alaska Communications are hoping for a positive outcome in this groundbreaking project for our rural communities. Doyon will share more information on this project after NTIA finalizes award decisions.

UPDATE: On September 9, 2021, Calista Corporation announced collaboration with Calista Corporation, Doyon, Gana-A Yoo, and Alaska Communications to provide high-speed internet to nearly 12,000 underserved rural Alaskans. View the announcement here.

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