Red Cliff Awarded Broadband Expansion Grant

buffalobayThe Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and Norvado have been awarded a $107,698 Broadband Expansion grant from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin that will be used to expand high-speed internet to 36 businesses and over 700 residential locations on Red Cliff Tribal Lands.

The project will consist of building a 2.5-mile fiber route between the City of Bayfield and Red Cliff, which will allow Norvado Fiber internet service company to provide a much-needed improvement to internet access for the Red Cliff reservation.

“Due to the rural nature of the reservation, Red Cliff currently relies on substandard and limited broadband access,” said Theron Rutyna, IT Director for the Red Cliff Band. “With this project providing gigabit internet service, Tribal employees and community members will benefit greatly.”

Rutyna said that Tribal employees will be able to use all the tools of the modern workplace, including video streaming, telemedicine, remote education, and advanced file sharing. Norvado CEO Chad Young said this extension of a fiber backbone connection to Red Cliff will allow for the development of high-speed offerings for members of the community.

“Internet access has become an essential part of our society,” said Young. “A broadband internet connection allows communities a variety of social, educational, and economic advantages over those who do not have this vital link to the world… Jobs and business growth, educational opportunities, telehealth and e-commerce are substantial advantages that this type of connection enables.”

Red Cliff and Norvado have attempted for several years to bring high-speed internet to the reservation, including a 2017 application for this same PSC grant. Red Cliff and Norvado will be working together to finalize details of the implementation, with hopes of having the line in place as soon as construction season allows.

Young said there is much work ahead for the Tribe and Norvado, including finalizing engineering and construction plans, ordering materials, plowing in fiber optic cables, splicing and finally testing of the fibers once work is completed.

Tribal programs and services will see a massive increase in internet capabilities. Rutyna said programs like the Boys and Girls Club and the Early Childhood Center will have 10-times faster internet service, as well as lower cost services than are currently available. This project will also provide easier access to public hotspots and wireless connections.

This project is set to benefit the Red Cliff reservation specifically. However, the pathway established here can be used in the future to expand past the boundaries of the reservation and further along Highway 13.