Everything In Moderation

Social media websites have found themselves caught in the middle of a growing battle between the public’s right to freedom of speech and the site’s right to censor obscene or offensive content on their platform.  On one side, an individual’s right to expression is ingrained on the foundation of our society with the First Amendment. We are taught from a very young age that your right to speech is one of the most important things you have and censorship intrudes upon that right.  On the other side we have social media sites that are attempting to provide a clean internet landscape as well as appeasing advertisers who have invested in the company. If you censor too much, the public may get frustrated and abandon your site, but if you censure too little then advertising dollars may do the same.  It’s a very thin line that must be walked if these platforms are to continue growing.

For certain companies, such as Google or Yahoo, a temporary solution has been found. They were able to construct algorithms that kept offensive content away from particular advertising. These algorithms would keep advertisements about learning to fly a plane away from stories about plane crashes and so on.  For search engine based sites, this is a very helpful way to ensure that both the user and the advertiser get what they want.

With companies like Facebook or Twitter, where all of the content is provided by the user, it is not always as easy.  When a user uploads their content or opinion, and it is taken down or flagged, it incites rage in the user. If they feel as if their voice is not being recognized they may stop using the platform altogether. For user based entities, that can be a frightening thought. Although most of these companies have millions of users, they may be just one completely un-moderated social media site away from being obsolete.

Advertising vs. freedom of speech is not the only fold of this issue; another important aspect is the company’s handling of hateful or violent content. Where in most cases, nudity or foul language can easily be identified; hateful content in the form of humor can be much harder to remove. After a week long campaign spanning 5,000 emails and 60,000 tweets, the Woman’s rights group Women, Action and the Media (WAM) convinced Facebook to revise their moderation strategy to remove hateful content concerning rape and domestic violence. Facebook claimed in a recent statement:

“In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate…..We need to do better- and we will.”

What makes this issue so difficult is the very small space which can be occupied to satisfy all parties. To completely back freedom of speech means an environment where hateful content can exist, but the road of censorship can lead down a very slippery slope. One thing is for certain, the next few steps we take will define our future direction. Let’s hope they are the right ones.

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What Maggie Did For Me

What Maggie did for me

Maggie not only impacted the UK, but my life and the life of all Americans. In 1989, after she relaxed the regulations in the UK to allow foreign investment in UK telecommunications, there was a flood of Americans in the cable industry that went over to build cable companies, which there were not many of at that time. She also said that cable could offer telephone service, not just TV like in the USA, which these companies did – although with two lines, one copper, one coax.  No one was taking fiber yet.

This was way ahead of the USA, which still didn’t allow convergent telecommunications, until the 1996 Telecom Act, although some states like Oregon, did in advance of the Act.

My husband and I were part of the army of Cable TVers, who went over and started these companies. Adam started with CUC Cable, a Canadian Company where he built his first UK system in Hemel Hempstead, a bit north and west of London.   He jumped companies after two years, and went to Jones Cable, then a large US MSO out of Denver, and built a company in Watford, ironically the next largest community south of Hemel.    I worked for a telecom engineer, John Hunter, who taught me everything I needed to know about telephone networks and convergent technologies.   He also wrote a book on tariffs, which he gave me as a going away present.  So interesting….

We returned from the UK back to Oregon, where we continued this work.  Me, with the Oregon Cable Telecom Assoc., where I was hired to represent cable companies at the Public Utility Commission, (which doesn’t regulate cable, only telephone in those days) and began the process of enabling convergent telecom on behalf of the cable industry. Of course, no one remembers those days, because it is ubiquitous now, cable/telephone/internet is all one business.   But it was Maggie that lead the way not only in the UK, but here in the USA where she forced the hands of American regulators to do the same.

Rest in peace: Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke ==>http://twitchy.com/2013/04/08/rest-in-peace-margaret-thatcher-has-died-following-a-stroke/

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Big Data

Have you every compiled so much data about consumers that the very basic technique of searching through said data was too complicated for a normal processor to handle? Me neither, but this first world, mega company issue has been as pressing as an iron in a Banana Republic since the advent of data collection. The issue is, with the development of the internet and ways to collect data, pools of vast and nearly endless information on potential customers have been growing exponentially, with no way to cut through the fat and glean actual pertinent information. Enter Big Data. Big Data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools. In fact, it requires a completely different platform to be able to manipulate it.

Take Facebook for example, with over 1 billion members clicking, liking and providing insights into their desires and wants. Previously, the sheer girth of this information would make it difficult to even categorize, let alone to sift through and find meaningful insights about potential customers. With Big Data, you are able to set parameters, explore the information and get predictive analytics that allow you to see deeper into the data trends.  This information comes from machine-learning algorithms that are similar to the ones used in the Pandora music listening project which allow you to see patterns you wouldn’t normally see using traditional tools.

The beneficial concept of Big Data is the idea that the more data you can analyze the more accurate of a result you can gain from that data set. Jim Yu of the Huffington Post advises otherwise: “Access to more data doesn’t mean it’s the right data to analyze. Improperly targeted, Big Data becomes just more Bad Data.” He goes on to say “I believe that Big Data-driven marketing will rule the 21st Century, but that century has only just begun.”

All in all, Big Data is a relatively new concept and with all new ideas, there will be set backs and revisions. Although in the long run, it may revolutionize the way we analyze data, perhaps for the time being, we should let the first world, mega companies deal with its immense weight.

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You have got to be kidding me

Guess who regulates your cell phone and tablet?  Could it be the Federal Communications Commission?  No. Or how about the Federal Trade Commission?  Guess again—it’s the Library of Congress.  Of course, that makes so much sense.  NOT!!

So, what role does the Library of Congress have?  Well, they are charged with overseeing parts of our copyright laws.  Apparently there are certain copyright privileges that extend to cell providers, like AT&T and Sprint, and these privileges protect their intellectual property.   Have you ever tried to get your smart phone or tablet unlocked so you can use it on another carrier’s network? If  you are still under contract for the purchase of the phone or tablet, the carrier does not have to unlock it, thanks to the Library of Congress’s interpretation of copyright law.  In fact, you can be sent to jail for five years and fined $500,000, or both, if you unlock your phone on your own without authorization.

Thankfully, this policy may be changing.  According to the March 5, 2013 issue of the Wall Street Journal, on Monday of this week, the White House threw its weight behind an effort to get this ridiculous rule amended.  Customers will still have to honor any contracts they have signed to purchase their equipment, but at least they can’t be blocked from switching their instrument to another carrier if they are willing to pay the termination penalty.

It’s ironic that most other countries are far ahead of the US when it comes to regulating cellular companies.  For many years, the United Kingdom’s Ofcom (thier FCC equivalent) has mandated that all carriers unlock their phones, no matter what.  If you live in the UK, your SIM card will work in any handset, no matter which carrier provides it.  Having this flexibility is very handy.  That means that you can use any handset/smart phone you want, not just those models that the cellular company wants to see you purchase.

We travel to the UK a lot, ever since we lived there in the early 90’s.  T-Mobile has been good about unlocking our Blackberries (although it take days and is a complex process).  But it’s worth the hassle.  When we land in England, we buy a SIM card from a UK provider, plug it in our Blackberry and voila, we have a UK phone number and reasonable calling rates.

Let’s hope these ridiculous unlock policies are changed soon.  If you want to add your voice to the process, go to the following site and sign the petition: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-unlocking-cell-phones-legal/1g9KhZG7

-Adam Haas-

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The Return of the BLOG

It is incredible that we have been so busy with work these past couple of years that we have had no time to keep up with our Converge Communications blog.  We have been incredibly fortunate that these past few years have been so busy when so many other people have been struggling.

The big project that Converge has been working on is the creation of the Warm Springs Telecommunications Company (WST).  For many years, Converge has been the telecommunications consultants for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon.  It is the largest land based tribe in the state, with 5000 tribal members living on 1000 square miles.   Land mass ranges from the mountain tops of Jefferson and wooded back side of Mt Hood, to high dessert and even the river basins of the Deschutes River.   While it is tribal lands, it is also convergent to the recreational playgrounds of Oregon.  From skiing on Mt Hood Meadows, hiking Jefferson or fishing and rafting on the Deschutes, the beautiful land of the reservation is on the periphery of a lot of activities.   It is also a difficult place to serve with telecommunications.

After a needs assessment and strategic plan finished in 2006, Warm Springs was asked to help implement some of the ideas of the plan.  Numero Uno was to bring public safety radio to help with all the incredibly police and fire needs.   The second, which is what I will tell you about now, is to bring basic telephone service and broadband Internet to the residents, businesses and government agencies that have been underserved and even UN-served.   Less than 30% of tribal members had access to broadband and only about 63% had even a basic land line telephone.   People have mobile phones, but with one tower serving 1000 Sq Miles, you can imagine how it is incredibly limited in service for most people.

After years and years of applying for and receiving grant dollars for planning this new company, (from the federal Rural Utility Service and Economic Development Agency) we finally had a business plan and a basic engineering design in place when the ARRA Broadband Stimulus grant program was announced in 2010.   Finally, on the second round of applying (which is a story itself!) we were awarded a grant/loan of $5.4million and a smaller $200K technical assistance grant to build out this new company.

We broke ground on our new facility in April, 2011, and last January, 2012, we held our grand opening ceremony!   After remodeling a very old, asbestos and rat ridden facility on the Reservation, Warm Springs Telecom is now in business with about 400 customers.   Many who have never had telephone service in their lives.

Imagine that!  Still, in America, we have communities of people who have never been served with plain old telephone service (POTS)!   Never mind having broadband….

-Marsha Spellman-

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For Smartphones, it’s Goliath v. Goliath

There is an emerging battle  in the telecommunications industry and it is centered around the exponentially growing sales of the smartphone. A smartphone is a mobile phone built on a mobile computing platform, with more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a regular cellular device. The computing platform essentially gives the user a functioning mini-laptop that not only can take calls, but can give directions, play games and browse the internet from nearly any location that a phone would receive cell service. The two goliaths in the battle for smartphone supremacy are Apple and Samsung. The research firm IDC estimates that Apple controls  23.5% of the market share while Samsung controls 22.8%  with both companies having shipped just under 100 million units in 2011. That growth is outstanding when considering that the smartphone market was barely existent just five years ago.

Although both companies are promoting similar products, their strategies lie at the opposite end of the spectrum. Apple offers only one phone, the iphone, with a focus on design and profitability over sales. The prices are set in a very specific range and their retails stores are tightly controlled. Samsung, on the other hand, has diversified their product options to provide a phone and package for each individual budget and price range.

One phone in particular, the Droid, seems to be the chosen phone to compete head to head against the iphone. As a newly adorned smartphone user, it seems like the war over smartphone market shares will be won in the social sphere. Just one month ago, a close friend of mine purchased an iphone and in the following weeks, because of his constant praise, four others purchased the same phone. One of the main desires for smartphone customers is interactivity with their friends and loved ones so if Apple or Samsung can obtain a clear majority of the market, then that may be enough to push the entire smartphone community in their direction. As to which company will be victorious, that is still to be decided but one thing is for certain, once you have purchased a smartphone, you can’t return to a world of regular phones.

-Scott Gilmore-

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A Decent Proposal

T-Mobile has recently urged the FCC to make all LTE bands operating in the 700Mhz spectrum fully interoperable. Currently, AT&T’s devices use the lower part of the band (704-746MHz), while Verizon’s use the upper part (746-787MHz). This makes it impossible to use an AT&T device on Verizon’s network and vice versa, since the devices are all tuned to use their specific carrier’s spectrum. T-Mobile’s proposal would force all carriers to create products that could operate throughout the entire 700MHz spectrum and hence be fully interoperable.

The benefits of this, according to T-Mobile, would be to motivate roaming and increase the stability of our public safety network. An added interoperability aspect would allow companies, specifically T-Mobile and Metro PCS,  to secure roaming agreements with other networks in areas where it lacks sufficient spectrum. The request came in response to a recent commitment made by the FCC in relation to AT&T’s acquisition of 700 MHz spectrum from Qualcomm Inc. T-Mobile claims that the regulation would make mobile networks more competitive and the consumers would benefit from this competition, which is a concept that the FCC strives to uphold in the sphere of mobile communication.

Another key component of this regulation would be increased efficiency of the Nation Wide public safety service FirstNet. According to Michael Baum of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “FirstNet is intended to provide a nationwide broadband network for emergency first responders based on a set of common standards to ensure interoperability across public safety and police agencies at state, local, and federal levels”.

T-Mobile explains, “Without interoperability across the entire 700 MHz band, FirstNet will be unable to fulfill its obligations. Like commercial carriers in other bands, it will be problematic for FirstNet to include a large number of multiple band classes in its equipment, limiting interoperability with all 700 MHz licensees. Unless there is interoperability across the entire 700 MHz band, public-safety entities will be limited in the carriers with whom they can potentially share infrastructure, roam, and enter into usage and lease agreements.”

Opponents of the regulation, including AT&T and Verizon, claim that the FCC does not have the authority to mandate an interoperable network and that the regulation would incur significant development costs to their companies as well as delay the new development of LTE.

The FCC is slated to make a ruling on the issue in the next week.

For additional information on this topic check out these sites:

Fierce Wireless

Mobile Burn


-Scott Gilmore-

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AT&T Takes Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Recent AT&T company policies to slow users data speeds after they have used 3 gigabytes of data in one month were reversed this Thursday. After an onslaught of negative press in the realm of social media, AT&T has decided to honor its grandfathered unlimited data usage contracts but have since stopped selling unlimited data plans. Consumers on unlimited plans had reported significantly lower data speeds once they had reached the 3 gigabytes per month point in their usage, which caused the backlash.

Although the reduced data speeds are an outrage to most clients, they are a boon to start ups like Onavo Mobile Ltd who have created a program to shrink file size. This 20-person company has made an application that compresses consumer’s downloads so that they use less data and in turn stay under their allotted data cap. Chief Executive Officer Guy Rosen claims that their daily download rates have risen hundreds of percent. The recent AT&T policy reversal will not affect the success of Onavo as a majority of smart phone users will still be concerned with controlling their data uses, especially as the demand for spectrum grows.

Why has there been so much focus on data use and data speed lately? Data use has been increasing exponentially since the advent of the smart phone and wireless computing. As this use increases, so does the need of available spectrum to handle all of the demand. Companies such as AT&T have a limited amount of spectrum to supply their customers. In order to make room for everyone, AT&T has tried a variety of plans and policies, including slowing data speeds for use of over 3 gigabytes. It’s not just AT&T who is facing this problem. Three of the four major wireless carriers have throttled user’s connections in an attempt to increase spectrum availability.

We are currently entering a new wireless frontier, where the potential for constant connection and seamless interaction becomes more realistic. Companies will continue to make mistakes as we continue to traverse this new landscape, but as with all successful enterprises, their missteps will help guide the way to a brighter future.

-Scott Gilmore-

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Google +, A Ghost Town

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal compared Google’s social network to a virtual “ghost town”. A study by World Wide Data indicated that the average minutes per visitor to social media sites had Facebook at 405 minutes per visitor and Google + at only 3. For a site that relies on user input to remain afloat, this is a very ominous sign.

Google execs have a different view of the story, claiming that since it’s launch in June, 90 million users have registered. When compared to Faebook’s 845 million monthly active users, this is a paltry sum. Brian Solis, an analyst at the social media advisory firm Altimeter Group claims, “Nobody wants another social network right now.”

In a virtual world that is oversaturated with social sites, this statement couldn’t be more true. The main appeal to Facebook isn’t its ease of use, which seems to be getting more complicated by the update, nor is it the various apps or functions. The main appeal of Facebook is that everyone you know is on it. Facebook streamlines all of your connections into one place and allows you to easily contact anyone you desire with the click of a button. Google + will never be a viable social network option until they either catch up to Facebook’s users, or re-identify themselves as a different kind of social networking service. Until they are able to do that, Google + will be inhabited only by the ghosts of what could have been.

-Scott Gilmore-

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Converge In The Press

Here is a compilation of articles featuring the recent Warm Springs Telecom ribbon cutting ceremony on the Warm Springs Reservation.

Cascade Business News

Tribal Telecom Begins New Service for Warm Springs Reservation


Jan 12, 2012

Warm Springs Telecom will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new tribal telecom company’s central office and customer service center on Friday, January 27 at 11:30am, followed by an afternoon of activities and food for the community to celebrate the newest tribal telecom company in the United States. The WST office is located at 4202 Holliday Street, Warm Springs (on the Warm Springs Reservation).

After more than five years of planning, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon is now the 9th tribal telecom company in the country. Like many tribes across the United States, members of the tribal nation have been underserved by the telecom companies serving the community. Rather than waiting for improvements, the Tribes decided to take control of their telecom future and build their own company that will offer basic land-line wired telephone service and broadband, high-speed Internet access.

“Telecommunications is a critical infrastructure that we can’t continue to live without,” says WST Board Chair Sylvester “Sal” Sahme. “Education, jobs, healthcare and economic development all rely on having sophisticated telecommunications. We can’t afford to lag further behind other Americans. We needed to do this and build out this new company to serve our people and bring us into future. This is an exciting day for our Tribes.”

WST Operations Manager, Jose Matanane, formerly the General Manager for tribally owned Fort Mojave Telecom, told people at a recent meeting that, “when I started at Ft. Mojave, we had many of the same problems as Warm Springs now has, including very high unemployment. Not only did the tribal telco create jobs, but it created opportunities for tribal members and businesses to use the network to expand their personal businesses and the Tribe to do further economic development. The unemployment rate has gone down at Ft. Mojave as the phone company built out its network. “

WSTC will build a state-of-the-art fiber and fixed wireless network and eventually serve everyone on the Reservation with telephone and broadband. As it also has received its federal Eligible Telecommunications Carrier certification (ETC), the company will also be able to offer eligible Tribal members telephone services for $1/month.

Located in Central Oregon, the 1,000 square mile Reservation of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is home to the Wasco, Paiute and Warm Springs Tribes. 5,000 members and others live on the very rural Reservation. The Tribes have historically relied on timber harvest and hydro-generation as revenue sources. The launch of this new tribal enterprise positions the Tribes to become a leader in advanced telecommunications services.

Under the aegis of Warm Springs Ventures, the economic development corporation of the Tribes, tribal leaders has been working on this project for more than 5 years. Jeff Anspach, CEO of Warm Springs Telecom explained, “One of Ventures’ roles on the reservation is to provide a greenhouse for tribal startups. In this capacity we are able to provide administrative support to the Telco in the pre-operational phase of its development until it can stand on its own two feet.”

After receiving planning dollars from federal agencies, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Warm Springs Telecom received $5.6 million from the ARRA Broadband Stimulus Fund in 2010, also from RUS. This enabled the years of planning to come to fruition as the new tribally owned company will soon offer services to individuals, tribal agencies and businesses.

“Access to broadband will help small businesses improve operations, strengthen distribution channels, increase efficiencies, and gain access to the global marketplace,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker. “In short, this project will stimulate economic development and is a terrific example of how President Obama has made it a priority to grow jobs in rural America.”

The creation of the Warm Springs Telecom represents the goals of the stimulus money released by the Obama administration. With extremely high unemployment on the Reservation, the creation of this company is an economic development engine that has created jobs employing tribal members. Money has also flowed to other local companies, including Steele and Associates Architects of Bend, who designed the new company’s central office and customer service center; general contractor, Kirby Nagelhout, and the numerous subcontractors needed for the construction of the building; and Bridge City Furniture of Portland, who furnished the building with funds from this award.

The Warm Springs Telecommunications Company (WSTC) is a tribally chartered enterprise whose mission is to bring advanced broadband services to the Warm Springs Reservation, including voice and broadband Internet access.

The Madras Pioneer


Holly M. Gill

February 01, 2012

With a major broadband project nearing completion on the reservation, the Warm Springs community marked the grand opening of Warm Springs Telecom’s central office on Friday, with a day-long celebration.

“The tribes have just now entered the 21st century,” said Jeff Anspach, chief executive officer of Warm Springs Telecommunications Co., noting that the project opens the reservation for business opportunities.

“It fills me with joy and apprehension,” he said, explaining that he’s excited that the infrastructure is nearly in place, but apprehensive about how the completed project will be received.

“We absolutely need support from all of you,” said Anspach. “We want to make it an example for the rest of Indian country to follow.”

The celebration was the culmination of a decade of work to bring wireless communication to the reservation.

In August 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development announced that Warm Springs would receive over $5.4 million from funds authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Eight months later, the tribes broke ground on the project, which included upgrades to the reservation’s existing wireless tower, construction of four new towers, and remodeling of a former housing factory to house Warm Springs Telecom and Warm Springs Construction Enterprise.

Located on Holliday Street in the Warm Springs Industrial Site, the newly remodeled 8,932-square-foot building now houses the Warm Springs Telecom’s data communications center and office space.

“We’re bringing broadband coverage to 1,000 square miles,” said Jose Matanane, operations manager for Warm Springs Telecom.

Matanane, who managed another tribally-owned telecommunication company on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation before accepting the local position eight months ago, expects to serve about 900 subscribers when all the towers are up and running.

The towers, which will be shared with public safety and phone service, will improve band width, connection speeds, and download speeds for the reservation’s 5,000 or so residents.

Starting with opening prayers at 11 a.m., the event included a welcome by Sal Sahme, chairman of the Warm Springs Telecommunications Board, luncheon, numerous speakers, and a ribbon-cutting by Miss Warm Springs Chloe Suppah.

Special guest speaker Dallas Tonsager, under secretary for USDA Rural Development, said that his agency has been charged with building rural facilities, including electrical, water and communication systems.

“Rural America has special challenges,” he said. “Tribal America has very special challenges. This project looks like it’s going to benefit virtually every member of Warm Springs.

Dr. Mark O’Hollaren, vice president of Oregon Health and Science University, which provides outreach to the tribes, was on hand to congratulate the tribes on their new telecom.

“This could do much more for the health of your community than I think you realize,” he said, noting that it would encourage economic development and education.

Comparing the reservation to a human body, O’Hollaren said, “Indian culture is the heart of the body here on the reservation, but you can’t get along without the nervous system. The nervous system is communication.”

With broadband service across the reservation, the tribes gain access to “the world’s learning,” he said. “It may seem distant from health, but I think, in fact, it’s central to improving the health of your community.”

Anspach applauded the Tribal Council’s unwaivering support for the project. “This is a really good example of the definition of ‘doing,'” he said.

Warm Springs gets broadband

Residents, officials dedicate new telecommunications headquarters


By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

Published: January 30. 2012 4:00AM PST

WARM SPRINGS — Ten years ago, only homes in certain areas on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation had telephone service.

But within months, many will have access to high-speed Internet, allowing them to access YouTube, Facebook and Netflix.

Community members and government officials gathered Friday to celebrate the start of a new era with a ribbon cutting at the Warm Springs Telecommunications Co., the ninth tribally owned telecom company in the United States.

Time-honored tradition blended with the 21st centuryas residents performed ceremonial dances and blessed with prayers the new building on Holliday Street that will provide the reservation with new telephone and Internet service.

The telecommunications company will create the infrastructure to help build businesses that can generate revenue and income, said Sal Sahme, director of business and economic development for the Confederated Tribes of Warms Springs — everything from tourism to Web-based companies operating out of homes.

“It will create the stepping stone to those other kinds of expanded businesses,” he said.

Warm Springs Telecom expects to start providing high-speed Internet to area residents in late February, and telephone services by the end of March, said Gabriel Walker, its sales and marketing coordinator.

Walker said towers have been built on Eagle Butte, which will serve the more rural areas of the community, and Miller Flat, which will serve the central area.

Tribal members began planning a new telephone company 10 years ago, and phone service has improved since then, but Warm Springs Telecom will expand it to areas that still do not have it, he said.

Jeannie Brisbois, of Warm Springs, said the slow and unreliable Internet service has made her job at the vehicle pool a struggle for years.

“You’re in the middle of something and then the service stops on you or stalls, and then you lose it,” she said. “It’s time-consuming and frustrating.”

Brisbois, 51, said she hopes the new services will allow more people to experience the Internet, and also bring revenue to the tribes and help create jobs.

“I’m excited about faster Internet speeds so people can message each other and look up things without having to wait and wait and wait,” she said.

For the past 10 years, members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs represented other Oregon tribes in statewide efforts to obtain broadband services, said Christopher Tamarin, telecommunications strategist for the Oregon Business Development Department.

“They’ve been engaged in this whole effort to expand the availability of broadband services throughout the state,” he said. “Tribal lands are traditionally underserved areas, so this is a milestone.”

Adam Haas, general manager for Warm Springs Telecom, said $5.4 million in grants and loans from the federal government, along with $750,000 from the Warm Springs tribes, helped pay for the project.

While the service will only serve the community initially, Haas said he hopes that one daya fiber-optic ring will surround the reservation, along with fiber optics leading from the reservation to Madras.

The Internet has become the global platform for business and communications, Tamarin said. Broadband Internet access is viewed as essential infrastructure for economic activity, much like roads, bridges and water systems.

“Twenty-five years ago, to be credible in business you had to be in the Yellow Pages,” he said. “Today, if you’re gong to be credible you have to have a presence on the Internet.”

Tamarin said the next step will be to have tribal members embrace and use the technology.

“Now the question is, what are they going to do with it, and what’s it going to produce?” he said.

Dallas Tonsager, undersecretary for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Rural Development agency, said the services will help improve economic development, education and health care, and it will provide a way for the tribes to share their culture with other communities.

“You think about what broadband does for people everywhere, every day,” said Tonsager, who is based in Washington, D.C. “People in their homes have Internet access and email access and communications access and business people can purchase and sell and develop new businesses.”

This is one of those very basic things that everybody should have, said Tonsager, whose agency provided the $5.4 million for the project from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Currently, the agency has 300 projects under way to bring broadband to rural areas across the country, he said, but Warm Springs Telecom is one of the first to be built.

“I think what this really does is set a great example for tribal leadership, for community leadership on reservations, that maybe they, too, can take up the cause and help their community.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,


Warm Springs Telecom Open for Business

One-Third of Tribeal Members Don’t Have Phone Access


By Shanna Mendiola, KTVZ.COM

POSTED: 6:05 pm PST January 27, 2012

UPDATED: 6:41 pm PST January 27, 2012

WARM SPRINGS, Ore.A breakthrough celebrated Friday in Warm Springs: Access to phone and internet service will now be widely available for tribal members thanks to their very own, tribally owned telecommunications company.

Warm Springs Telecom opened their doors Friday in a grand opening ceremony.

After five years of planning, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs became the ninth tribe to start up their own telecommunications company.

Warm Springs leaders say it’s a big step in connecting them beyond the reservation and improving their economy.

“I get to give back to my people here on the reservation,” said Gabriel Walkier, a tribal member and now sales and marketing coordinator for Warm Springs Telecom.

“Having the ability to come back and work for the people for the reservation and bring back the experience I’ve had off the reservation,” Walker said.

About one-third of people living on the Warm Springs Reservation don’t have access to phone or Internet service. Now, everyone will get access to basic telephone service and broadband, high-speed Internet.

“I’m an entrepreneur, and I would like to use the access to the Internet, and I’m also sure a lot of people would feel the same way,” said James Greely, a Warm Springs tribal member.

“I am really excited for the Internet,” said reservation resident Amanda Frank. “I have been waiting to use the Internet for the past five years, to do some homework and other business stuff, and I haven’t been able to do it.”

The tribe received planning dollars for the project from federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials with the USDA say the move is important, to be competitive in the world.

“The president spoke the other night (in his State of the Union address) about building an America that lasts, and economy that lasts for America,” said Dallas Tonsager the USDA’s undersecretary for rural development

“I think this is a fundamental part of that.”

Walker said, “Before that, there was no sort of broadband Internet out here on the reservation. And now, since we’re able to bring it fully here, reaching out parts where no ones ever had it, the broadband is going to be major for them, so they can connect, like I said, back to the world.”

Work to start connecting the area to the service starts this week, and Warm Springs Telecom hopes to get everyone connected to phone and Internet service within a year.

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