The Washington Statewide Broadband Office (WSBO) awarded the Nisqually Indian Tribe with $6.775 million to expand its broadband services throughout the Nisqually region.
Specifically, the grant will help allow the tribe to install broadband fiber north of Rochester and into Littlerock.
The grant comes on the heels of another from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) for $2 million to install fiber between the Nisqually Reservation and Rochester.
“The Nisqually Tribe appreciates the Washington State Broadband (WSBO) efforts and is excited about the prospect of being able to work together in extending quality broadband into the currently unserved/underserved areas of Thurston County,” wrote Nisqually Information Officer Debbie Preston in an email. “The funding, alongside the tribe’s efforts, will greatly increase the quality of life for the community residents that have suffered from the lack of quality broadband, most notably throughout the recent pandemic.”
Broadband started at Nisqually when the tribe realized there was virtually no access to broadband services on the reservation, Preston said.
“The tribe addressed this gap initially by providing broadband services to all home(s) and facilities on the reservation” she said. “It was completed thanks to (CERB) and tribal funding. As part of this on reservation effort, the tribe became aware of those remaining rural areas in Thurston and Pierce Counties in which qualified broadband services are still not available.”
As a result, Preston said, the tribe completed several optical access network (OAN) feasibility studies through CERB funding to address financial feasibility, permitting requirements, regional market, logistics and long-term sustainability for such off-reservation areas.
The tribe also reached out to other jurisdictions as part of the effort, she said.
The tribe’s fiber optic installation company, Nisqually Communications, is currently carrying out much of the fiber optic installation work in the south Puget Sound area.
To work further on its goal of extending broadband services to other areas of the county that are also currently unserved, Preston said the Nisqually Tribe has consulted with Thurston County on the potential for collaboration and partnership under a multi-year plan.
A letter of intent with that purpose is currently being developed with the county, she said.
Preston detailed the proposed third phase of the Thurston County OAN buildout in her email.
The phase-three buildout will consist of an OAN originating at the town of Rochester in southern Thurston County, and running north along public roads to serve the Littlerock and Gate areas, as well as additional areas near the town of Rochester.
To aid in the effort, the Nisqually Tribe has built its own Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) company that provides broadband services to previously unserved homes and facilities on the Nisqually reservation.
The Phase III buildout “will provide an estimated 800 residents with new GPON services, which will supersede the state’s broadband goals and be the highest available residential broadband speed available in the state,” Preston said.
She said the tribe has also worked with the county in the drafting and review of a memorandum of agreement for the Thurston County Broadband Action Team (BAT), which the tribe is part of.