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Lac du Flambeau tribe receives $25 million grant for broadband development


The Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe announced plans Wednesday to build an independent, affordable broadband system with a more than $25 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The internet service should start reaching homes in Lac du Flambeau next fall.

Tribal council member Eric Chapman says the grant is the culmination of a two-year effort prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During COVID, the lack of broadband connection was a serious problem,” Chapman says. “Sometimes you can get a good connection, but if you walk to the other side of the house, you might lose it.”

So, the tribe took action.

It has spent the past two years researching, planning and writing grants for broadband development in partnership with groups like the Vilas County Economic Development Corporation, the Lac du Flambeau Business Development Corporation, the tribal planning and natural resources departments, and UW-Madison Extension.

The goal is to achieve ‘tribal digital sovereignty.’

“Being a tribal leader, we always strive to make sure our communities are caught up with urban areas regarding cell phones, broadband and any other infrastructure services that you get in a city. We want to make sure it happens up in the Northwoods also,” Chapman says.

The $25 million grant will enable to tribe to be its own internet provider. Once built, the broadband system will be managed by the Lac du Flambeau Business Development Corporation.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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