|Oct 01, 2011 --
Orleans, located in a mountainous region of far northern California is one of the one most isolated and remote communities in the state. Communication connection is nearly non-existent for local residents. Not only does the region lack cellular and internet services, even the landline service is limited and unreliable. Orleans is also home to the tribal headquarters of the Karuk Tribe.
Communication connection is particularly critical for the Tribe since they do not have a legally designated reservation, but rather a number of small tracts held in trust by the federal government. As a result, the Tribe is not only isolated from other communities, but from each other as well.
The challenges are not limited to tribal communications. Students have limited educational opportunities and few resources available to them. Public safety is at a disadvantage too, with the nearest sheriff 45 miles away and only a volunteer fire department nearby. USDA Rural Development awarded the Karuk Tribe a $1,141,870 Community Connect Grant to help develop broadband internet service in the community.
The two-phase project includes installing a new fiber optic cable linking Orleans to the Siskiyou Telephone Co.'s connection in Somes Bar and then distributing the internet service through wireless technology. It’s anticipated the project will be completed in 3 years.
Expanding communication options will benefit all members of the Karuk Tribe in various ways; such as increasing public safety, providing economic development opportunities, and providing additional educational opportunities for students.
The new broadband service is expected to increase public safety for residents. Fire safety is an important issue in the region which experiences many forest fires. The tribe plans to utilize broadband service by creating a communication system to receive fire alerts via email.
Additionally, funds will be used to incorporate distance learning opportunities for the rural community, and provide students with a researching tool for class projects. Distance learning programs will partner with the community college to provide coursework to tribal students. As well, free internet access will be provided to the local library, elementary school and other community services.
It is also expected that with the completion of this project cellular service will be more feasible for the community.
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