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Mashpee tribe secures big federal grant to build a high-speed internet network

Sarah Mizes-Tan
/
WCAI
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Headquarters

The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has secured more than $9 million in a federal grant to build a high-speed internet network.

The funding is from the federal Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and Mashpee was one of 9 projects across the country listed to receive funds.

The funding will allow Mashpee to build a fiber-optic tower and then connect individual tribe members to the broadband network.

The project is still in the beginning stages, but the tribe is exploring to see if residents in nearby towns may also be able to connect.

Mashpee tribal council chairman Brian Weeden says the grant funding will help ensure that children in the tribe can learn using high-speed internet, but he says this will also help tribal businesses and possibly non-tribal residents.

“A huge Kutâputush to everyone involved in bringing much needed infrastructure to our citizens,” said Chairman Weeden in a press release. “This latest round of support from the Biden Administration will help us build sustainable infrastructure that not only benefits our tribe but our neighbors that surround our tribal lands.”

Weeden says Senator Ed Markey and Massachusetts congressional delegation helped secure the funding.

The Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program is a nearly $3 billion grant program and part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Internet for All initiative.

The latest grant announcement distributed more than $70 million to 9 projects across the country that will directly connect 3,107 unserved Native American households that previously had no connectivity to high-speed internet.

In Mashpee, The Broadband Infrastructure Deployment project proposes to install fiber directly connecting 130 unserved tribal households, two unserved tribal businesses, and 3 unserved tribal community anchor institutions with 25/3 Mbps broadband service.

Winona Pocknett, a staff accountant for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, worked closely on the grant.

“We are honored to be included in this award that will bring reliable and, more importantly, affordable high-speed internet to many of our tribal members,” Pocknett said in a statement. “Our tribal households have struggled with financial and physical infrastructure barriers to high-speed internet for too long. Today, we have taken a large step toward closing that gap.“

Pocknett is creating a board to consider how to move forward with the project, before bringing a proposal to the tribal council to approve.

The federal government announced the awards yesterday at the White House Tribal Nations Summit held at the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C.

“The Biden administration is committed to fostering meaningful partnerships with Tribal Nations, which have been vital to our goal of connecting everyone in America, including American Indians and Natives, with affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet service," Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

Sam Houghton left CAI in February, 2023, to become News Editor at the Martha's Vineyard Times.
He worked at CAI since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.