Smoke Signals Indian Law Blog Tue, 21 Jun 2016 15:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Call to Action: Tribal Leader Advocacy Can Make the Difference in Access to Broadband in Indian Country! Fri, 07 Nov 2014 00:30:02 +0000 Continue Reading]]> I hurt my back recently – probably due to wearing 4-inch heels while dragging my suitcase though airports large and small… but I digress.

As you all know, I’ve been thinking a lot of about communications infrastructure in Indian Country and as the ache in my back began to affect the rest of my body, I started thinking about the impact our “backbone” has on the growth of economic development and access to education and healthcare in our community.

Last week, the State of Alaska Broadband Task Force released a report that studied access to broadband in Alaska.  They found that a business with broadband earned an average of $100,000 more a year than a peer business without broadband.

  • $100,000 MORE revenue simply due to access to high speed internet!

Can you imagine what that means for tribal government enterprises? And for Tribal member businesses?

There are a number of resources available to fund the infrastructure development – USDA, FCC, state grants, private financing, and tribal hard dollars.  But either way you look at it, this must be a priority for tribal leadership.  Too often I hear that the IT department is handling those issues, which is true and we have some truly incredible people working on those issues on the ground, but they need Tribal Leader support!

Without tribal leadership participation and advocacy, it is almost impossible to make the systemic changes needed in the legislation, programs, rules and regulations to make access to high speed broadband a reality for all our communities.

The Obama Administration is committed to government-to-government consultation and this issue is no different than others Indian Country has rallied behind.  But government-to-government consultation requires tribal leader presence and participation.  For example, this session, Congress is examining the Communications Act and asking for feedback.  Has your Tribe submitted a comment letter?  Are you tracking this issue?  If the answer is “No”, then can we really complain later when Congress begins its revisions and once again, we are left behind?

Without this essential “backbone”, our kids are left behind in education, our elders do not receive the level of healthcare service they otherwise could, and our tribal and tribal member economic development opportunities are diminished.

Loris Taylor, Matt Rantanen, Traci Morris, and Geoff Blackwell at the FCC have been “playing point” on this issue, but we need more tribes, organizations, and tribal leadership to rally behind this Technology Transition.

Contact any us to learn more about opportunities to participate in achieving digital equality for our communities.  If we wait, we will truly end up on the other side of the Digital Divide.

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Grants Expert Ron Flavin Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:32:17 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15, Ron Flavin, will be a featured panelist at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

Ron Flavin is an internationally acclaimed Business Organizational Strategist who has specific expertise in developing and writing grant proposals for businesses of all sizes as well as for non-profit organizations, government agencies and educational institutions. To date, Ron Flavin has helped his clients secure more than $175 million in funding and develop successful, sustainable short and long term business growth strategies.  Due to his knowledge and contacts, Ronald Flavin is the bridge between two worlds: big businesses and organizations of all sizes, including NGOs and small businesses.

According to Ron Flavin, “Many entrepreneurs and organizations may not be aware that they are good candidates to secure millions of dollars in grants funding. The problem is a shrinking pool of dollars and few tribes are able to develop competitive applications that get funded. Compounding the problem further, many grant applicants do not follow the directions in their grant applications. They don’t develop solid proposals. And they don’t plan for the strategic development of the proposal. It’s surprising how many grant applicants do not do the research they need to do to get the accurate and current information that could win the grant. “

He has a successful track record in getting grants for tribal initiatives related to telecommunications. Clients include the Klamath River Rural Broadband Initiative (KRRBI) for the Karuk Tribe (California). He has also had a 100% success rate with the USDA’s Community Connect program and obtained a $1.4 million award for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (Keller, Washington).

Ron Flavin stated, “At the conference, I want the participants to understand the most common reasons why tribal proposals do not get funded. They’ll have a better understanding of why some proposals get funded and others don’t. They’ll learn strategies or tips for strengthening their proposals. And finally, the participants will benefit by learning how they can improve their access to broadband funding.”
NOTE: Ron Flavin recently wrote the grant and consulted to the Three Rivers Valley Educational Foundation. The grant awarded was $10.8M.

As the author of Business Grants: Everything you need to know to connect with local, state and federal grants for business,he is known for identifying potential revenue streams in any organization and implementing a plan to develop these new sources of revenue. Flavin frequently announces current grants opportunities on his highly popular blog that is located at or on Twitter @rflavin.

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Andrea Alexander Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:23:34 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15-16, Andrea Alexander (Makah) will be a featured speaker at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

Andrea Alexander has over 30 years experience of development in the native community and runs her own business, Energy Innovation Foundation. Her firm provides strategic planning and project development for Tribal governments and non-profit organizations. Andrea Alexander has been a native community activist for 10 years for telecommunications and energy and stays current on the policy & programs that impacts the tribes.

Andrea Alexander commented on the problem facing native communities: The lack of reliable broadband has an adverse impact on the many services each Tribal government has to deliver in aspects of healthcare, education, transportation and commerce.

According to Andrea, “My tribe doesn’t have full access to broadband. The current policy depends on the private sector to build the infrastructure, but if the population is too small, the investment will not happen. It’s a huge problem and we’re in a huge crisis situation. The fact that our children can’t take the required state tests because we don’t have 4G has helped to motivate leadership to take action and give new to life to this important policy issue. We are seeking economic parity to broadband to gain full access to the internet as well as broader cell phone coverage for all rural tribal communities.”

Andrea has served as the Director of Energy for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Deputy Director for the Washington State Office on Indian Affairs, and her own tribe, the Makah Nation to create public/private partnerships in the Northwest. As the current Co-Chair for the ATNI Telecommunications Committee, she hopes the conference attendees will help:

“Recruit new stakeholders to this issue that will travel to Tulalip and learn about our issues. The conference location will help attract active allies willing to help northwest native people address the growing technology issues we face. We need help in building a broad-based, diverse movement committed to solving the lack of connectivity. In today’s world, all services and businesses are dependent on the internet and without it the people who live and work in these areas are at a distinct disadvantage. The fact that we still have large areas without broadband service is a form of economic racism and is essentially redlining these communities.”

“On October 16, there will be an ATNI Technology Committee work session to bring the common policy issues to light and build the necessary consensus to create strategies to overcome obstacles in the technology field. Once we get people to agree on the problem, then we can work on developing a shared strategy to overcome any barriers. Funding for broadband initiatives is our biggest challenge right now; the lack of funds and the high level of complexity in the application process is one area we can address right away. We have a short game and long game for policy change. As northwest native people, we linked to our sense of place – we will always be here. I have been taught by my Elders, success is not just about big money or big politics, it is also being committed to hanging in over the long haul. We always look forward to the great hospitality of our Tulalip brothers and sisters & thanks to all the organizers”.

Andrea gained her philanthropic experience through the First Nations Development Institute, than as the Director of Grants for Social Justice Fund Northwest, as a volunteer for the

Philanthropy Northwest Grantmakers of Color and as the founder for the Potlatch Fund. Here are her comments about the need for new funding for technology training programs.

“We need new sources of funding so any rural community, tribal or not can apply to get access to technology training. Technology is changing so rapidly and a native led effort will ensure we can keep up. We are developing the Tribal Technology Training Program or T3 to educate people at the grass roots level with tech skills that will support their educational and employment potential. One of the main outcomes I’d like to see is direct financial support for T3 initiatives. The technology training needs to happen now.”

Andrea Alexander and her husband Mike, a Haida tribal member, along with their 13 year old daughter, Antonia, reside in the Seattle area.

For further information contact Andrea Alexander,

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Senator John McCoy Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:51:10 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15, Senator John McCoy (Tulalip), Washington State Legislature, will be a featured speaker at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA.

John McCoy represents the Everett, Marysville, and Tulalip communities, and neighborhoods of Snohomish County in the Washington State Senate. John was elected to the House of Representatives in 2003, and appointed to the Senate in November 2013.

John served in the United States Air Force for 20 years, retiring in 1981 and went to work as a computer technician in the White House, where he stayed from 1982 to 1985, continuing his career in computer programming and operations and management in the private sector.

He returned to his home state almost two decades back to help bring the Tulalip community into the digital world. John was instrumental in the development of the Quil Ceda Village Business Park. John and his wife, Jeannie McCoy, make their home in Tulalip. Bringing the tribe and other underserved areas of Snohomish County fully into the 21st century with high speed broadband access to the Internet has been one of the driving goals for John since coming home.

“There are still many areas of Washington State where being underserved or not served by broadband is still a prevalent problem,” said McCoy recently. “We still have neighborhoods in Seattle that do not have broadband. For example in there are pockets in the 11th legislative district in South Lake Union, close to where Amazon is located, that do not get broadband. The problem is how to get broadband in there.

“There are wide expanses of rural areas that are going without broadband. For example on the Makah reservation the connectivity issue has been moving forward and making progress and yet, on the day the students have to take tests online, the tribal government has to shut down so the kids have bandwidth to take their tests. Another example is when high school seniors from Davenport had to drive 35 miles to Spokane to find Wi-Fi hotspots, and stop in parking lots so they could do their homework and get their senior projects done.”

McCoy said he can point to other areas of the state where the situation is the same. In the 1980s and 1990s, he points out, the term “Digital Divide” was being used to refer to individuals – who had broadband and who did not. These days, however, it means whole areas that are underserved or not served at all.

“When I served in the United States Air Force,” he recalled, “I learned technology from the ground floor. When I came home to the Tulalip Reservation, Stan Jones [Chairman of the Tulalip Reservation Board of Directors] recruited me to build an economy. I grew-up in technology but all I had on the reservation was dial-up. I had to figure out how to get the latest technology on the reservation.”

“When it comes to being wired,’ he said, “people claim 90 percent of Washington State had broadband connectivity, but the majority live in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham, Everett, and in the small cities and towns between Seattle and Olympia.” Places outside of these areas, he said, have pretty sparse connectivity. “In the Tri-cities, they have holes in their network too,” McCoy said. “This is a statewide problem and we need to fix it.” In some places, city and county codes are keeping broadband out for aesthetic reasons. Cities and the counties both need to address this problem and fix it, he said.

“My frustration is that so many schools are doing without broadband connectivity, especially when the Washington state Board of Education is pushing for wide scale electronic testing. How can they implement that requirement when there are so many areas without broadband?

As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy, Environment & Telecommunications Committee, Sen. McCoy is in a better situation than many to try to address this problem.

“The problem with the lack of broadband has been identified,” he said. “Now, there will be a lot of conversation on what kind of funding the government will provide. How do we get funding? How do we get the big telecoms to play? The telecom companies will not go to an area unless it’s financially feasible. At what point should they do something because it’s the right thing to do?”

Wherever broadband goes, business follows, he points out. “Broadband is an economic engine. Let’s take a look at the Quil Ceda Village Business Park that was developed in 2000. The Quil Ceda Village business park has become vital to building and sustaining the Tulalip culture and regional economy. Today the Quil Ceda Village is a popular destination for thousands of shoppers and provides a highly visible opportunity for a variety of businesses.

Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of John McCoy, the entire area in and around the Tulalip Reservation is double ringed in fiber. Tulalip owns its own phone and broadband Internet providers, an HDTV company and a fiber optic company.

“Once the latest technology was adopted, many businesses came knocking on our door and said they wanted to be there because the infrastructure was there,” said McCoy. “We think our success can be shared and serve as an example to many other areas on the state of Washington.”

Sen. McCoy also serves on the Senate Government Operations Committee and the Senate Rules Committee. He is an active member of four National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) panels. John is a co-chair of the NCSL committee on the Environment, and he’s also a member of the NCSL Labor & Economic Development Committee; the NCSL Communications, Financial Services & Interstate Commerce Standing Committee, and the NCSL Environmental Management Legislative Roundtable.

John and Jeannie McCoy have three daughters, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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Monica L. Babine Featured on Smoke Signals Blog Thu, 09 Oct 2014 19:53:20 +0000 Continue Reading]]> On October 15, Monica Babine, will be a featured speaker at the “Taking Smoke Signals Digital” Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip, WA. 

Monica Babine leads the Program for Digital Initiatives at Washington State University (WSU) Extension’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services. A Senior Associate with WSU, she works with business, government, economic and community development organizations on promotion, research and technical assistance to increase broadband awareness, access and adoption. Monica assists with broadband planning in several rural areas in Washington. Prior to joining WSU, Monica led a consulting firm that provided presentations, consultation and training on telework, compressed workweeks, flextime as well as community and economic development for public, private and non-profit organizations.

“From my standpoint, access is both availability of the network and the ability for people to afford it,” said Monica. “Many tribal lands and rural communities in Washington still have needs related to increasing broadband awareness, access, and adoption,” she observes.

“Here’s what I mean by each of these:

Broadband awareness – There is still a need for better understanding of the relevance, the benefits broadband provides individuals and organizations.

Access – which includes middle and last-mile infrastructure, but also the technology needed to use these services.

Adoption – Broadband is not a field of dreams. Just because you build it doesn’t mean people will use it. Adoption is the ability to use the resources (infrastructure and technology) which often includes training and technical assistance.”

“Over the past few years I have been supporting broadband projects in rural areas of Washington State. I manage the WSU Program for Digital Initiatives, where I focus on business, community and economic development.”

“Through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Broadband Office  awarded approximately a dozen Local Technology Planning Team grants,” Ms. Babine said. “I supported five of those including the West Olympic Local Technology Planning Team project (WOLTPT) which involved several tribes in Clallam and Jefferson counties.”

According to Monica, “An important opportunity for folks at the Taking Smoke Signals Digital Conference to take actions on technology policy issues and training needs is to attend the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Telecommunications Committee strategy session on October 16, from 3 to 5 pm.” Topics to be discussed include broadband and cell phone access and infrastructure build out issues; EMS planning needs such as those Washington OneNet/FirstNet is addressing; and, next steps for the T3. The last ATNI Annual Conference, and the Tribal Technology Training (T3) Kick-Off held at Microsoft, linked tribes and Native people with IT resources, and identified these as the areas to be addressed next.

“I have enjoyed working with local and regional leaders to increase broadband awareness, access and adoption in our state and hope this conference leads to continued opportunities to support this important need,” said Babine.

Monica Babine is on the Washington OneNet team, providing outreach and engagement regarding FirstNet in the state. She was an active member of the Washington State Broadband Advisory Council and currently serves on the Washington State Library Digital Literacy Advisory Team, Telework Coalition, and the Mobile Work Exchange Visionary Committee.

Monica is the Vice Chair of the Inland Northwest Partners and on the Advisory Board for the National e-Commerce Extension Initiative. She was at a major telecommunications company in Washington for fourteen years working in operator services, accounting, marketing and public affairs.

Monica has a BA from Eastern Washington University in Social Work and worked in several social service agencies.

For further information, contact Monica L. Babine,


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