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Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in southwest Colorado awarded $3.2M grant for high-speed internet

Posted at 7:39 AM, Dec 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 09:39:37-05

MONTEZUMA COUNTY, Colo. — The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Montezuma County was just awarded a multi-million-dollar grant to bring high-speed internet to the area — something that officials say is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in today's world.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) would give a $3.2 million grant to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Towaoc to construct the broadband infrastructure. This is expected to create 33 jobs and generate $550,000 in private investment.

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is one of three federally recognized tribes of the Ute Nation.

The EDA said this grant will help provide high-speed internet service to connect the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation and the city of Towaoc to the city of Cortez. This will increase residents' access to "distance learning and telemedicine, supporting public safety, and allowing for business and entrepreneurial growth across the reservation and region," the EDA said.

Raimondo said the lack to basic high-speed internet is an injustice.

“Internet access means more than just opening emails and checking social media. It means having access to life-saving technologies, economic opportunities, remote learning, and countless other essential benefits," Raimondo said. "The awards presented today build upon the broadband funding provided by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and reaffirm this administration’s commitment to ensuring that Tribal communities, and unserved and underserved communities across the country, have the resources they need to thrive in the 21st century.”

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said the high-speed internet is essential for families to work, learn and participate in modern society.

“But far too often, Tribal communities in Colorado and across the country lack access," he said. "This investment will support the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's efforts to expand broadband access to strengthen their economy and boost opportunity.”

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration awarded two additional grants as part of the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. The grants total about $1 million between the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Arizona and the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Wisconsin.