Oneida Nation photo
Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi tasi Hill met with the Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin in Lac du Flambeau for consultations January 11-12, 2023, to discuss the tribe’s broadband needs. Hill, shown here with PSC Chairperson Rebecca Cameron Valcq, lobbied for funding to kickstart both short- and long-term plans to provide Reservation-wide broadband service to the membership.
Government Administrative Office
Continuing to meet his Government Roles and Responsibilities obligations for the Oneida Business Committee and the Nation, Chairman Tehassi tasi Hill attended Public Service (PSC) Commission of Wisconsin and Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council (GLITC) Consultations in Lac du Flambeau January 11-12.
This is the Oneida Nation’s first consultation with the PSC, a regulatory agency responsible for regulating public utilities in the energy, telecommunications, gas, and water companies in Wisconsin. The commission is composed of three full-time Commissioners who decide cases brought before them for changes in utility operations, rates, and for construction projects after a complete and thorough review of all the records compiled in the case. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate for staggered, six-year terms.
During discussions with the commission, Chairman Hill explained how the Oneida Nation created a cross-functional team in August 2022 to facilitate communication and coordination between the tribe’s various entities to provide broadband to the Oneida Nation Reservation. “We discussed our general plan to have two towers built within the 2.5 GHz spectrum to get initial Reservation-wide Wi-Fi coverage,” Hill explained. “We then got into our long-term plan to get fiber optics set up to our homes which will be a time-consuming endeavor, which is why we proposed a few towers to address the initial basic needs of the tribe. The end goal is the fiber optics installation which will perform much quicker and more reliably than the towers.”
Hill expressed the challenges of applying for grants to achieve this goal, which is no guarantee. “We’ve applied for a few grants surrounding this project which made it through the initial vetting process, but were ultimately denied,” Hill said. “So, our challenge right now is how to get this project to move forward and continue applying for these funds. Hopefully we’ll be successful in obtaining a grant to implement this because the fiber-to-home aspect of this project will most likely exceed $10 million. The tower aspect of this project will take roughly a year while the back-end fiber optic part of the plan will be more along the lines of about five years to complete.”
While in Lac du Flambeau, Chairman Hill also participated in GLITC’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) and Digital Equity Program (DEP) Consultations. The BEAD Program, which ties in with the Nation’s broadband goals, provides more than $42 billion in federal funding to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning and adoption programs across Turtle Island, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the Mariana Islands.
“These discussions were very technical in nature,” Hill said. “Our tribes discussed where we were individually in the grants process, so essentially the BEAD and DEP talks surrounded what our Nation’s broadband needs are and what our plans are moving forward. This way our needs will also be included in the state’s broader plan to receive federal funding. This discussion was very similar in nature to the PSC Consultations surrounding our broadband needs across the Oneida Reservation.”