Rural Broadband Dream on Way to Becoming Reality
Connecting after the ConnectHome meeting in Talihina are, from left, Stacy Shepherd, SEO of Choctaw Nation Member Services; Scott A. Gros- field, Regional Director with Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation; and from everyoneon, Washington, D.C., Chike Aguh, Chief Programs Officer, and Amber Petty, national program coordinator.
Talihina, Okla. - Three public meetings have been held concerning the Choctaw Nation and its Connect-Home program: Hugo, McAlester, and most recently Talihina.
President Obama visited the Choctaw Nation in Durant on July 15 and unrolled the ConnectHome initiative, a followup to ConnectED, which seeks to have 99 percent of K-12 students have high-speed Internet in their classrooms and libraries by 2018.
Along the same line, ConnectHome means to bring high-speed, broadband Internet to designated low-income residences in rural America.
In his talk, President Obama referred to targeting residents of HUD housing for the assistance. Residents of the Choctaw Nation’s HUD-type program, under the Housing Authority, will benefit from this plan. But there have been some misunderstandings about who is eligible.
Scott A. Grosfield said his office had received more than 60 calls in the week before the Nov. 20 meeting in Talihina, including one from Utah, wanting to know when their new tablets would arrive.
Scott A. Grosfield, Regional Director of Rental Property Services & ConnectHome Project of the Housing Authority of the Choctaw Nation, explained who can expect a free device and training to the more than 100 area residents at the Choctaw Nation Community Center in Talihina. He also sent an email the following week: “The ConnectHome Project is bringing wifi to rental units within the Choctaw Housing’s inventory only. If you don’t live in any of our rental sites, this program will not impact you. The tablets that GitHub donated to Choctaw Housing this past Friday the 20th is strictly for residents with children who reside in our low income or ARH sites only. Our Rental Managers for those sites will be signing all of the devices out to the children’s parents sometime after the Thanksgiving break. The devices already have programs installed in them to get started on their learning process. The Connect-Home team is working diligently behind the scenes to negotiate the best data plans and the overall best infrastructure to bring broadband wifi to all of our rental sites within our service area. We are trying to roll out the service to these sites at one time and are projecting that time frame to be sometime in January 2016.”
After entertainment by traditional Choctaw dancers and a dinner, Fred Logan, Connect-Home Coordinator of the Choctaw Nation Housing Authority, emceed the meeting, which among other things, sought to explain ConnectHome and its goal of “bridging the digital divide.”
Representatives from participating agencies and companies delivered brief presentations and answered questions from the crowd. Among the private-public supporting organizations attending were EveryoneOn and GitHub. Other organizations that have announced support of the Choctaw program, and attended previous meetings, are OETA, Best Buy, the Oklahoma Public Library System, the Boys & Girls Club and several Internet companies. GitHub announced that it plans to provide 58 free tablets to Talihina families participating in the program.
For additional information on the Connect-Home Initiative in southeastern Oklahoma, contact: Scott Grosfield, Regional Director of ConnectHome for the Choctaw Nation, 580-743-5360, [email protected]