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Osage Broadband powered by AtLink making high-speed dreams come true

The two-year broadband project is off and expanding, but according to Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, the project will only be successful if Osages work together

The Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 5 to honor the partnership between Wahzhazhe Connect and AtLink over the broadband connectivity program.

The Osage Nation received two grants totaling $54.5 million to install fiber optic internet across Osage County. This is to provide cheap and affordable internet for Native American households.

The Nation will own the fiber optic network infrastructure, including towers and lines. The network is then leased to Osage Innovative Solutions LLC – a subsidiary of Osage LLC, the Nation’s business arm – when doing business as Osage Broadband powered by AtLink. Dr. Jim Trumbly, director of Wahzhazhe Connect has helped lead the Nation through the process of constructing the fiber optic network.

“What I’m hoping for out of this project is to enable the Osage people to finally have high-speed, world-class internet connectivity,” Trumbly said. “Once we have that, that can be the economic engine that drives this entire county. We could become a player in the economic development of the United States, not just Oklahoma.”

Pawhuska Mayor Susan Bayro, Osage, and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear in their gifted blankets at the ribbon cutting at the Chamber of Commerce on June 5, 2024. CHELSEA T. HICKS/Osage News

Native American households in Osage County will be able to use the fiber optic to power all of their devices without having to worry about connectivity disruptions.

“They’ll be able to sit in their homes and stream on three TVs, play online video games, have multiple computers and all their phones hooked up, and never see that spinning circle of death,” Trumbly said.

Brent Greene, the marketing director for Osage Broadband powered by AtLink believes this program will be beneficial to citizens in Osage County, as the fiber optic will operate for multiple entities.

“It is important for us because not only do we serve residential, but we also serve commercial businesses,” Greene said. “We wanted the business community to know that we are a proud partner with the Nation and a proud partner to be involved with the city to make sure we meet those needs.”

The partnership between the companies is important, but also necessary to provide the services for Osage County.

“The relationship between Osage Broadband, which is part of the Nation’s LLCs, and Wahzhazhe Connect, which is part of the [Osage] government,” Trumbly said. “Wahzhazhe Connect is the construction arm and Osage Broadband is the operations part. Think about it as if you were building an apartment complex; Wahzhazhe Connect is the architect and the builder and the construction team. Once they get it built, they’ll turn it over to property managers, and they’ll do the leasing, maintenance and upkeep – and that is Osage Broadband.”

As of now, fiber optic is finishing at Grayhorse Village and is complete at senior housing in Pawhuska. Construction at Fairfax Senior Housing is complete and will be activated in the next couple of weeks. AtLink service trucks can already be seen outside residences in Pawhuska.

Wahzhazhe Connect is now ready to start construction on the western side of the reservation, from east of Ponca City to Pawhuska, as well as the Pawhuska Indian Village. Evaluation for fiber optic from Pawhuska to Bartlesville is finished and construction will begin after Historic Preservation has finished their assessment. Routes from Pawhuska to Hominy will be included in this phase.

Next phases in the project include Hominy to Fairfax and eventually into Skiatook, Barnsdall, Sperry, Tulsa and Avant.

“We’re putting about 200 miles of fiber optic cables in Osage County and 16 tower locations,” Trumbly said. “And Osage County is about the size of the state of Delaware. It’s a big undertaking.”

Asst. Principal Chief RJ Walker speaks passionately about Broadband at the ribbon cutting at the Chamber of Commerce on June 5, 2024. CHELSEA T. HICKS/Osage News

Assistant Principal Chief RJ Walker said the importance of Wahzhazhe Connect goes much further than just providing internet for entertainment purposes.

“If you go back a little further to when Covid happened and kids were at home working virtually, and not everybody had access to good broadband,” Walker said. “And a lot of times, the broadband was spotty at best, or there were times whenever the service wasn’t available for a day, two or three, and sometimes more. So we’re going to solve that, and we are solving it right now.”

The Nation had to go through a lengthy process to make Osage Broadband come to fruition. But the outcome of the process will be beneficial to the Osage people.

“We executed a contract with AtLink and the rest is history. We are going to take off and have some of the best broadband in the world,” Walker said.

Chief Standing Bear said everyone will have to come together to make sure this program can thrive within the reservation.

“A project this big needs all hands on deck,” he said. “That’s all people that have any connection to the project; which is everybody, because we are talking about the internet. In order to make it all work together, we need to be together.”

Eventually the project will not only benefit Native American homes in the county but all citizens living in Osage County. Current funding is provided for Native American homes, but there are plans to expand the fiber optic network to all homes and businesses if they choose.

“It’s going to be a service we provide to the Osage people,” Trumbly said. “But it’s going to be up to the Osage people to actually subscribe to it and sign on.”

Author

  • Collyn Combs

    Collyn Combs is a multimedia journalism student at Oklahoma State University. She is a member of the Osage Nation, and her family is from the Grayhorse district. Combs is from Ponca City, Okla., and attended school in Bartlesville, Okla., where she graduated in 2017. She served on the newspaper staff at Bartlesville High School from 2016-2017. She attended Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa after graduation and wrote for The Maverick newspaper from 2017-2020, and served as editor from 2018-2019. She currently lives in Stillwater, Okla., and is involved with O’Colly TV as the weather reporter, OSU Native American Student Association and is secretary for the Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority.

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Collyn Combs
Collyn Combshttps://osagenews.org
Collyn Combs is a multimedia journalism student at Oklahoma State University. She is a member of the Osage Nation, and her family is from the Grayhorse district. Combs is from Ponca City, Okla., and attended school in Bartlesville, Okla., where she graduated in 2017. She served on the newspaper staff at Bartlesville High School from 2016-2017. She attended Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa after graduation and wrote for The Maverick newspaper from 2017-2020, and served as editor from 2018-2019. She currently lives in Stillwater, Okla., and is involved with O’Colly TV as the weather reporter, OSU Native American Student Association and is secretary for the Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority.
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