$300,000 awarded for Internet access


A $300,000 OVERCOME grant from US Ignite, the National Science Foundation, and Schmidt Futures has been approved to improve McKenzie Valley Internet access. The program was designed to support underserved communities via novel broadband technology solutions.

“Rural communities continue to see a lack of Internet services, critical not only for basic daily tasks but also for emergency preparedness and recovery,” said East Lane County Commissioner, Heather Buch. “The OVERCOME grant provides an opportunity for consistent, reliable Internet for the McKenzie area as they recover from the devastating Holiday Farm Fire.”

The grant will fund the development of a new permanent wireless Internet backbone into the McKenzie Valley area. The backbone will be utilized in support of two exciting new projects, including a more resilient Internet connection to the McKenzie School.

“McKenzie School District struggles with connectivity and has for decades,” said Lane Tompkins, McKenzie School District Superintendent. “The Holiday Fire only made things worse. We lost all of our connectivity for months. With the needs for reliable Internet access amplified during this global pandemic, this grant will change the lives of our students, residents and business owners.”

Onward Eugene and the McKenzie School District have also teamed up with Elevate Technology Group to construct and pilot a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the area. A hundred wifi hotspot devices will be given to local students and households in the burn area of Blue River.

“The innovative solution we are deploying is a good mix of wired and wireless technologies that build on the lessons learned from the pandemic and recent wildfires, said Geoff Turner, CEO at Elevate Technology Group.

Grant funded efforts will kick off April 1st, with construction in May. Grant partners plan to begin Internet service delivery to both the school and surrounding community in the fall of 2021.


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