Published April 14, 2017
FAIRFAX, OKLAHOMA —The Osage Nation recently received an internet access grant of nearly $3 million dollars to provide broadband services to the Grayhorse area, a traditional Osage Nation community on the Osage Reservation in Oklahoma. Selection for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Connect Grant is the culmination of the hard work, dedication and vision of many Osage Nation employees and Grayhorse Community supporters. Funds from this grant will be utilized to establish an Osage Nation owned broadband company that will deliver high-speed internet services to Grayhorse and the surrounding area.
Development for this project began last year with a broadband feasibility study commissioned by the Osage Nation Utility Authority (ONUA) and with funding approved by the Osage Nation Congress. Associated Communication and Research Services (ACRS) in Oklahoma City, Okla., was selected as the engineering firm to complete the study.
The feasibility study described a plan to provide high-speed internet service throughout Osage County. An important aspect of the plan is the creation of a new Osage Nation owned business enterprise to accomplish that goal. One of the first milestones of the study was the completion of an application for the Community Connect Grant. The grant is federally funded and its purpose is, “broadband deployment into rural communities where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service,” according to the USDA website.
The purpose of the grant makes the Grayhorse community an ideal candidate for selection. Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s administration was keenly aware of the need for services in the Grayhorse area and have fully supported the project since its beginning.
Mark Kirk, Osage Nation Director of Information Technologies said, “The dedicated staff at ACRS spent countless hours preparing the grant application documents and Osage Nation Congress appropriated the necessary funds to make the application and resulting grant award a reality. In addition to the combined vision of Osage Nations Executive and Congress, a variety of Osage Nation departments and others are also responsible for contributing to the success of the project. Those include Environmental and Natural Resources, Grants Management, Historic Preservation and Information Technology along with the efforts of the ONUA and Tallgrass LLC.”
The Grayhorse Broadband Project is considered to be the first phase of a multi-phased program. The goal of the completed project is to provide high-speed internet services at an affordable cost to all businesses and residents of Osage County.
The broadband business enterprise will be operated by Osage Innovative Solutions (OIS), the technology group within Osage Nations, Tallgrass, LLC. Construction on the network will start soon with an expected completion date of 24 months.