Boosting internet access goal of new CN program
A survey on the Cherokee Nation’s website will help determine eligibility for free mobile hotspots. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – To help students with limited or no access to the internet, the Cherokee Nation is offering free mobile hotspot services for families that qualify.
“There’s a lot of issues with connectivity out in the 14 counties,” Education Services Executive Director Corey Bunch told Tribal Councilors on Nov. 16. “This will give students and parents greater access.”
Through its website, cherokee.org, the CN is conducting what it calls a Cherokee Connect survey “to get an understanding of Cherokee Nation citizens’ Internet needs and determine eligibility” for the tribe’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild Mobile Hotspot Connectivity Assistance program.
“That survey is twofold,” Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said. “One, it let’s us know where we need to invest more in the future as far as broadband technology and other resources. But the immediate need it handles is if that household does not have access to the internet – or limited or they’re having issues – they may be eligible for that MiFi device, in particular for those students that are struggling to immediately go to a virtual setting.”
Priority will be given to households with kindergarten through 12th grade students.
“It will be unlimited data services and it will be good up to one year,” Enlow said.
Parents are encouraged to begin by completing the survey.
“If determined your household may qualify for this program, you will be prompted to complete an application during the survey process,” states the CN website. “Due to limited supply, not every qualifying household will receive a device. A cellular solution may not work for every household, but know the Cherokee Nation is hard at work expanding Internet connectivity options for our citizens. The global pandemic has highlighted, now more than ever, that having reliable broadband access is essential for a thriving community, family workforce and Nation.”
Enlow said the CN will monitor the MiFi devices “and filter those so it’s still compliant with the Child Internet Protection Act.”
“It’s not unrestricted, so we are going to make sure the usage is appropriate,” he added. “We will be tracking based on addresses. If we see that the household is using it for Netflix or streaming movies the whole time, we may throttle that back because we really want the household to use it for education, for access to their health care system records, for job searching.”