Gov. Katie Hobbs, joined by local, federal and tribal officials, announces the groundbreaking of a project to deliver affordable high-speed internet to the Hualapai Nation, as well as Mohave and La Paz Counties. Photo Courtesy of the Office of the Arizona Governor
People living within the Hualapai Nation and Mohave and La Paz counties can expect access to affordable, high-speed broadband internet as soon as February as part of the Bridging the Digital Divide project.
“We are on track to bridge Arizona’s deep digital divide with this historic investment, connecting unserved and under-served Arizonans, especially in tribal and rural communities,” Gov. Katie Hobbs said in a press release.
The 2,250-mile construction project broke ground in Kingman on Nov. 14, aimed at delivering affordable, high-speed internet to about 32,500 Arizonans across Mohave and La Paz counties and the Hualapai Nation. The project is led by Wecom Fiber, a telecommunications company based in Kingman.
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“Wecom Fiber is thrilled to play a critical role in closing the digital divide by bringing affordable, high-speed Internet to tens of thousands of Arizonans across western Arizona and the Hualapai Reservation,” Wecom CEO Paul Fleming said in a press release.
The Bridging the Digital Divide project is funded through state and federal grants totaling $54 million. Wecom was awarded a $10 million Arizona Broadband Development Grant for the Mohave and La Paz county portions of the project and a $3.2 million USDA ReConnect Grant for the Hualapai Nation portion.
“Reliable broadband is no longer a luxury; it is essential infrastructure for businesses needing access to the online marketplace, job seekers, students engaged in remote learning, patients utilizing telehealth, and so much more,” Fleming added.
Around 22% of people in rural areas lack broadband access, along with 27% of people on Tribal lands, compared to 1.5% of people living in urban areas, according to a recent report by the Federal Communications Commission.
“Rural Arizona deserves and requires the same reliable, high-speed Internet available in big cities,” said Holly Irwin, the La Paz County Board of Supervisors chairwoman.
By February, parts of the Hualapai Nation, Mohave and La Paz will be connected to Wecom’s broadband internet.
Hualapai Chairperson Sherry J. Parker said that gaining broadband internet on the Hualapai Nation will be a real game changer for the Hualapai people by providing much-needed service to their local businesses, public safety operations, medical facilities, schools and libraries.
“Our beautiful Hualapai Reservation is remote, but we will have the world at our fingertips thanks to reliable broadband service,” Parker said.
The Hualapai Tribe portion of the project is set to be completed by April 2024, with the Mohave and La Paz county portions expected to finished by June 2025.
“Access to reliable broadband should not depend on a person’s home address, which is why I look forward to the completion of this project and continued expansion of high-speed Internet access across western Arizona and rural communities statewide,” said Travis Lingenfelter, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors chairman.
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