High-Speed Internet Service Celebrated in Neah Bay

By:  Sarah Sharp
Source: The Peninsula Daily News

Situated on one of the most remote coastlines in Washington, Neah Bay and the Makah Reservation now have access to high-speed broadband internet for the first time.

CenturyLink’s higher speeds, between 25 and 40 Mbps (megabits per second), will afford the Makah Tribe more reliable internet service.

Makah Tribal Chairman Nate Tyler said broadband would allow Neah Bay to provide better health care, education and emergency services, as well as faster oil spill response.

“Broadband access will open the door to providing better services faster,” Tyler said. “In order to protect our way of life at Makah, security and safety are paramount.”

About 60 percent of Americans on tribal lands do not have access to high-speed internet, according to a news release.

“It’s a huge step in bringing the Makah Tribe into the 21st century,” said Crystal Hottowe, who leads the tribe’s tech team.

The Makah Tribe celebrated with a traditional salmon bake, ceremonial ribbon-cutting and service demonstration at Makah Community Hall on Friday afternoon.

Several prominent guests included U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace; state Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip; Regional Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Stan Speaks; and U.S. Coast Guard District 13’s Adm. David Throop.

A fitting salute to high-speed internet, Cantwell livestreamed the event on her Facebook page.

When she took the podium, Cantwell described her and McCoy’s longtime vision of expanding internet access to Native American tribes. She recalled the “aha” moment in which that vision began:

“We looked at each other and said, ‘We need more broadband access in Indian Country in the state of Washington. Let’s make it happen.’ ”

McCoy said the next step will be addressing dead stops so everyone on the reservation can take part in the “wonderful occasion.” He’s spoken with the tribe, Microsoft and CenturyLink about utilizing white space to remove dead stops in the connection, he said.

“We have the players,” McCoy said. “We just need them to say, ‘Yes, we will do it.’ ”

Neah Bay is part of CenturyLink’s Connect America Fund (CAF) enablement plan for 2017.

In August 2015, Century Link accepted the CAF phase II statewide offer in Washington state and committed to bringing broadband with speeds of at least 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload to locations in FCC-designated, high-cost census blocks in Washington state over six years.

The Makah tech team and CenturyLink worked toward this end for about two years.

Hottowe said broadband access marked a “historical movement for our community.”

Tyler also described the importance of internet connection to the Makah Tribe in no uncertain terms: “Without CenturyLink, we are nothing. Without CenturyLink, we don’t have access to the world.”