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USDA Rural Utilities Administrator Visits Supai Tribe in Arizona to Announce a Recovery Act Broadband Project

Posted by Dianna Jennings, Arizona USDA Special Projects Coordinator in Initiatives Rural Technology
Feb 21, 2017
Rainbow in the Grand Canyon as seen from Near Mather Point on the South Rim, Grand Canyon N.P. NPS photo.
Rainbow in the Grand Canyon as seen from Near Mather Point on the South Rim, Grand Canyon N.P. NPS photo.

Few places in the U.S. are as secluded as Supai. Nestled in a side canyon of the Grand Canyon, it has the distinction of being the most remote community in the lower 48 states. The only way in or out is to walk, ride a mule, or take a helicopter.

A spectacular canyon, verdant and dotted with several spectacular waterfalls, Supai is home to the Havasupai Tribe—the “People of the Blue-Green Water.” The high mineral content of the water in the creek gives the falls a luscious turquoise hue…and coats the pools below them making them look like porcelain.

As one of the last two places in the US where mail is still carried out by mule (the other one is Phantom Ranch at the bottom of Grand Canyon), the Havasupai people have spent their lives with limited communication choices.

Recently Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator for USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service, joined Arizona Rural Development State Director Alan Stephens to helicopter down to the village of Supai to announce a $2 million broadband grant. The grant will be used to expand cellular coverage and internet access to Bar Four and the Supai Camp. These enhancements will allow cell phone companies and internet providers to expand services for the Tribe.

J.C. Cullen Company will provide the broadband expansion. Funds are through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

While the sweet simplicity of mule mail delivery continues for the people of the blue-green water, modern technology now assures that the people there will have access to the same information and learning possibilities as folks in more urbanized areas.

USDA has assisted the Tribe before. Through a 2004 USDA Rural Development Community Connect grant the Havasupai Reservation was able to utilize four Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) towers located on the Havasupai and Hualapai Reservations to provide broadband service to the tribe. The system has been implemented with backup satellite internet which provides basic internet connectivity to the Tribal System.

Today, Administrator Adelstein joins Aneesh Chopra, Chief Technology Officer, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to announce the opening of the Community Connect application period for broadband projects.  To find out if your community is eligible to apply, click here.

Category/Topic: Initiatives Rural Technology

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Michael collier
Jun 16, 2011

I have been trying to get Hughes net to include me in this grant program. Where I live there is no phone service and no other means of getting Internet to my home. I have called them for over a month and they tell me they will look into it and I've never heard back from them. I am a disabled veteran living on disability with very little money. It would seam that this program. Is one I should be able to use. If there is any way that you could give Hughes net a push I would greatly appreciate it - Michael Collier. Thank you

Jun 22, 2011

Mr. Collier,

Thank you for your comment! It may be that the satellite provider needs to verify whether your area is eligible for The Recovery Act’s satellite broadband program, which provides service at reduced costs to people in rural areas who have no other broadband access. If so, they may want a technician to check your eligibility for the program. Because your neighbors have this service does not always mean that you are eligible, although it can be a pretty good indicator.

Because of the number of people requesting this service, it can take as long as six weeks or more before Hughes can make a determination, but they do eventually get to those potential customers.

We did run your location on the new broadband map ( that the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications Information Administration launched earlier this year. The map indicates that one other satellite broadband provider offers service in your area—Wild Blue. You may want to contact them, too, to see whether they are offering service in your area.