While the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is rich in cultural pride, identity and history, its remote location in the rugged terrain of Southeast Oklahoma has severely limited the tribe’s economic development efforts. But a Broadband Initiative Program grant, made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will enable Pine Telephone Company (PTC) to use innovative wireless technology to deliver affordable broadband service to portions of this rural, remote and economically disadvantaged region in Southeast Oklahoma.
During World War II, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma provided an invaluable service to the United States by pioneering the use of Code Talking, using the native Choctaw language, to prevent enemy forces from intercepting the transmission of army secrets. And in 2008, the Choctaw Nation was awarded the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the highest recognition of support of employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve. So while the Choctaw Nation has shown outstanding compassion for the nation and its tribal members, the local economies of Choctaw communities have suffered tremendously. Of the five counties on tribal lands that will be served by PTC, all of them are plagued with unemployment rates that soar above the state average and a substantial proportion of residents living below the poverty line.
PTC spent years testing broadband technologies that would offer reliable internet service to residents of this remote region, and they determined that advanced 3G technology presents the most viable solution. The system is designed to be scalable and to cost-effectively accommodate technology upgrades, so that it will remain viable for years to come.
PTC’s system will offer service to nearly 5,000 households, 10 school districts, and 12 volunteer fire departments and ambulance services. With reliable, high speed wireless access, the region will be able to overcome their geographic isolation to stimulate the sustainable economic growth that it needs. And offering quality internet access to key community institutions, like schools and public safety bodies, will mean better educational opportunities and enhanced health care and public safety for residents of this region.
And in addition to the many benefits to be reaped by members of the Choctaw Nation, this Recovery Act project will also create more than 150 jobs over the multi-year construction period.
With assistance from Oklahoma USDA Public Information Coordinator Kathleen James.