Yurok Tribe picks chief executive of new telecommunications company – Times-Standard

Here is a press release from the Yurok Tribe:

The Yurok Tribe started a telecommunications company to fill gaps in access to digital and terrestrial communication services as well as to initiate new opportunities for economic development in the Yurok ancestral territory.

The Yurok Tribal Council has selected the Director of Yurok’s Information Services Department, Jessica Engle, to serve as CEO of the Yurok Telecommunications Corporation. Over the past four years, Engle has more than quadrupled the size of the Information Services Department, optimized the tribal government’s use of technology, and led efforts to increase high-speed internet access on the reservation. by Yurok.

The company will take over the operations of Yurok Connect, a tribe-owned wireless internet service provider. Incubated within the tribal government, Yurok Connect is currently in the final stages of a project to make affordable high-speed internet available to many parts of the Yurok Reservation for the first time.

Yurok Connect is installing state-of-the-art wireless broadband equipment and new towers between the coast and the tribe’s inner border in Weitchpec. To further strengthen Yurok Connect’s network, Engle is working with the Karuk Tribe to install nearly 104 miles of fiber optic cable from Orleans to Wautec and from Tulley Creek to Orick, then heads south to McKinleyville.

The project is currently in the environmental review stage, which is one of the last steps before construction begins. In addition to improving emergency communications during and after the pandemic, these projects will provide opportunities for many community members to participate in distance learning, virtual healthcare, and e-commerce.

During the pandemic, the federal government made its first attempt to address persistent inequities in the quality and quantity of telecommunications infrastructure on tribal lands. Developed by the Biden-Harris administration and passed by Congress, the American Rescue Plan Act provided $1 billion for tribal broadband projects. Every federally recognized tribe in the United States is eligible to apply for broadband use and adoption projects ranging from $500,000 to $2.5 million and infrastructure projects ranging from 1 to $50 million. Yurok Telecommunications Corporation CEO Engle requests much-needed funds from the US bailout to expand the Yurok Connect network and address unresolved communication needs in Yurok’s country.

If approved, the Yurok Telecommunications Corporation will use a portion of these funds to build a fiber optic line from Orick to Crescent City. Once completed, local businesses owned by Yurok citizens and non-Indians on Route 101 will be able to take advantage of fast internet service administered by Yurok Connect. The company also plans to use the funds to create Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the Yurok reservation, an internet assistance program for low-income people, and training to teach more local people to install. broadband infrastructure. Federal funds will also be invested in several other important initiatives.

Sean B. Jackson