North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation Breaks Ground on a Recovery Act Project to Bring Broadband to Rural Residents
An excited crowd gathered in New Town, North Dakota, last week for the groundbreaking of a major broadband infrastructure project. Reservation Telephone Cooperative (RTC) received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) to provide broadband service to rural residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and the surrounding area.
“High-speed broadband will literally open up the world to this region,” said Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider. “President Obama and Secretary Vilsack express the importance of bridging the digital divide throughout the country and this project is a good example of that vision.”
The project will bring broadband service to homes, businesses, schools, libraries and tribal government facilities. Through USDA Rural Development, with the support of the North Dakota Federal delegation, RTC received over $20 million in Recovery Act financing.
Senator Byron Dorgan, Senator Kent Conrad, Tribal Chairman Marcus Levings and RTC President Terry Wilber spoke at the ceremony along with State Director Schneider. The enthusiasm of the speakers focused on the Reservation’s increased economic opportunity as the investment will help create jobs and wealth, drive economic growth, foster innovation and help support health care and public safety services.
Senator Dorgan cited a study that across the U.S., 65 percent of households have high speed internet access. The same study found that only about 65 percent of homes on Indian Reservations have simple phone service. This project intends to turn that around for the Fort Berthold Reservation.
After the program, everyone assembled outside of the Northern Lights complex which was also funded by USDA Rural Development. Even though the rain was falling, smiles were big and spirits were high as representatives involved in the project took shovels in hand. With the ceremonial groundbreaking complete, the RTC will begin construction that will provide the area a service to help them thrive in the 21st Century. The project will be constructed over three years.
Groundbreaking Ceremony: Left to right: Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider, Tribal Chairman Marcus Levings of Three Affiliated Tribes, RTC President Terry Wilber, U.S. Senator Kent Conrad, U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan.