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.