Tribe expands broadband resources for its citizens, communities 

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation is offering free Wi-Fi at 35 drive-up locations throughout its reservation. Cherokee Connect, the tribe’s universal connectivity initiative, is focused on serving as a broadband resource and deploying connectivity that fills the gap for Cherokee households currently lacking internet access.

As we continue working toward the long-term goal of delivering affordable, reliable broadband, we know there is an urgent need for citizens to safely connect,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “These sites are now available for families to apply for assistance, elders to get access to telehealth and our students to pursue their education. The way we live now depends on our ability to connect. It’s my hope that these sites can bring a sense of comfort to people, while we continue to push forward with our broadband plan and bridge the digital divide that burdens northeast Oklahoma.”

The self-contained, wireless-driven Cherokee Connect technology allows Cherokee citizens to drive up within 100 feet of the signage, remain in their vehicles and connect to the internet, ensuring they are safely socially distanced while completing necessary online tasks. Simply connect to the “Cherokee Connect” network, accept the terms and conditions and then begin browsing the web.

Currently, 26 Cherokee Connect sites are available for public use, and the remaining locations will be complete over the next several weeks. The Cherokee Nation focused on conveniently locating the sites throughout the reservation with a special emphasis on easy access for those living in rural areas. Cherokee Connect locations are available in the following communities:

  • Adair County: Chewey, Stilwell, Westville
  • Cherokee County: Hulbert, Tahlequah
  • Craig County: Vinita, Welch and White Oak
  • Delaware County: Grove, Jay, Kansas, Kenwood and West Siloam Springs
  • Mayes County: Adair, Pryor and Salina
  • Muskogee County: Fort Gibson, Muskogee and Warner
  • Nowata County: Nowata and South Coffeyville
  • Rogers County: Catoosa, Chelsea, Claremore and Oologah
  • Sequoyah County: Roland, Sallisaw and Vian
  • Tulsa County: Sperry
  • Washington County: Ochelata and Ramona

“Most of our kids live up the river which is a dead zone. There are kids who have never been on the Internet at home their entire lives,” said Steve Sands, President of the Chewey Community Center, which is slated to get a Cherokee Connect Wi-Fi site. “Now, they can come here and use the Wi-Fi, and see what everyone is doing or stay engaged, and their parents can use it while their kids play.”

The tribe has also launched a new website, connect.cherokee.org, where citizens can find the exact location of a Cherokee Connect site, take a connectivity survey, and learn more about Cherokee Nation’s broadband efforts and federal broadband subsidies for low-income households on tribal lands.

The Cherokee Nation also kicked off a broadband feasibility study that is evaluating the telecommunications infrastructure around all Cherokee community buildings. This study, funded by the U.S. Department of Interior, will help the tribe develop a roadmap to ensure all communities are connected.

“We know that there are great partners providing outstanding broadband services to our citizens in many rural parts of the reservation,” said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. “We are studying this existing infrastructure to ensure we make the best long-term decisions. We want every citizen to have access to affordable, reliable broadband, and we can leverage these existing partnerships to continue building upon their success.”

In response to the pandemic, the Cherokee Nation launched the Respond, Recover, Rebuild Mobile Hotspot Connectivity Assistance Program that provided a mobile hotspot device to thousands of Cherokee households lacking internet. The distribution of these AT&T powered devices, with up to a year of service, was focused on providing connectivity to K-12 students and elders needing access to telehealth.

For more information about the Cherokee Nation’s broadband efforts please visit https://connect.cherokee.org.