What is a Tribal Broadband Bootcamp?
In 2021, a small group of people gathered in the southern California desert for the first Tribal Wireless Bootcamp. Organized by a loose collection of people with a long history of building and encouraging nontraditional broadband networks, the focus was on building, maintaining, and troubleshooting wireless networks in Indian Country.
Internet connectivity is now the keystone of almost everything we do, from how we communicate with one another, to how we engage with healthcare, keep our communities thriving economically, educate our young people, and practice cultural and environmental preservation.
Despite Tribal communities’ dramatically expanding connectivity needs, Indian Country often lacks decent Internet access.
For decades, Tribes have been overlooked, ignored, and defrauded by telecom companies seeking to extract wealth from their people and land.
With unprecedented federal funding opportunities for broadband in Indian Country and not many trustworthy partners for Tribes to lean on to support them in this work, many Tribal leaders have decided to build their own networks to ensure high-quality Internet access for their communities, but they don’t necessarily have the internal resources they need to do so.
In 2022, we held four additional Tribal Broadband Bootcamps, working with more than 20 Tribes, and added fiber optic training to the curriculum. We have now hosted eight bootcamps and have several more on the horizon, each with an agenda adjusted slightly to the experiences of hosting Tribes and interests of participants. To date, we have worked with over 250 individuals including people from more than 50 North American Tribes or First Nations.
The Tribal Broadband Bootcamps began as a conversation on how to build on the impressive work of the Internet Society’s North American chapter in the Indigenous Connectivity Summit but has continued with the support of many Tribes, individuals, funders, and organizations.
“We wanted to start a process where tribes could come together and share experiences with trained professionals, but at the same time have organic conversations and the opportunity to learn from each other and from our mistakes and successes, and become a network of people that will rely on each other forever.”Matthew Rantanen, Cree, Co-Founder of the Tribal Broadband Bootcamp
These events are being organized by Matthew Rantanen and Christopher Mitchell, along with many others who have made important contributions. An archive of all events hosted so far can be found here.