A groundbreaking for the Osage Nation’s Wahzhazhe Connect broadband expansion project is scheduled Feb. 6 at the Senior Housing complex in Pawhuska.
Tribal government officials, along with project officials will be at the 10 a.m. commemoration for the Nation’s first project “in a multi-year broadband construction schedule that will dramatically increase internet connectivity throughout the Osage Nation service area,” according to a news release.
“The Osage Nation is so pleased to begin construction in our senior housing neighborhood,” Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said in a statement. “One of our core cultural values places elders first in any situation, whether we are serving a meal or providing light-speed internet services. Wahzhazhe Connect will also provide technical assistance to our elders in setting up and maintaining their internet service as we continue to expand broadband to the rest of the Osage Nation service area.”
The broadband expansion is funded by competitive grants awarded to the Nation that include a $40.6 million Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program Grant from the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) and a $13.9 million ReConnect3 Grant Program from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Wahzhazhe Connect is building the critical broadband infrastructure for the Nation under the office of the Secretary of Development Christian Johnson. The construction project will lay more than 200 miles of fiber optics and erect 16 towers throughout the Osage Nation service area, the release said.
The groundbreaking announcement also comes as the Nation started a partnership with Tri County Tech and the ON Financial Assistance Department to offer paid training opportunities to individuals to work as field technicians as part of the broadband project expansion.
The groundbreaking represents the first day on the job for construction crews, which will include trainees from Wahzhazhe Connect’s partnership with the Financial Assistance Department and Tri County Tech. This unique partnership offers paid training for field technicians in connecting fiber optic cable to homes, the release stated. Training will remain ongoing during construction through field apprenticeships and classroom training at Tri County Tech, which was one of the first educational facilities to receive federal funding to administer broadband training.
“As we build out the network, what’s in the forefront of our minds is what’s best for the Osage people,” said Wahzhazhe Connect Director Dr. James Trumbly said in a statement. “Our language department can improve distance learning. We can increase cultural classes. The health clinic can increase telehealth. This is in addition to connecting and maintaining that thread from generation to generation, linking us with our ancestors and our descendants. While we’re focused on getting the network built, the entire Wahzhazhe Connect team and the Osage Nation knows that we’re building it for many important purposes.”
For more information on the Nation’s Financial Assistance department and services including employment training opportunities, visit: https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/financial-assistance