Osage Nation Advances Broadband Expansion

Osage broadband expansion
Danny Mackey (right), Wahzhazhe Connect Broadband Field Technician Trainee, assists Miguel Torres, Gulf Shores Construction, with loading boring equipment used to bury fiber optic cable to homes.

PAWHUSKA, OK – Wahzhazhe Connect, the Osage Nation’s broadband department, is finishing its first construction project in the program’s multi-year broadband expansion funded by grants totaling $54.5 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and ReConnect3 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Pawhuska Senior Housing neighborhood is currently in the final stages of completion as construction partner Gulf Shores adds the final equipment to the housing units. The contracted engineering design firm, ACRS, and Wahzhazhe Connect are conducting their final inspections, working closely with the Osage Nation’s construction manager, Brandon Wallace, to make sure the neighborhood is clear of remaining rock, dirt, and debris from areas where boring and trenching were required.

“The residents in Pawhuska Senior Housing have been wonderful to work with,” said James Trumbly, Director of Wahzhazhe Connect. “We are grateful for their hospitality and patience as we broke ground on this major construction project in their neighborhood. As this was our first of many projects, we learned a great deal from the feedback from the residents that will benefit the project and the residents in our future projects.”

Preparation for the second construction project is underway in Fairfax Senior Housing. Wahzhazhe Connect staff and contractors are working in consultation with Fairfax city officials to identify and mark utility and other telecommunication lines buried throughout the neighborhood to help avoid hitting unseen lines underground, which could interrupt service to the neighborhood.

“In any construction project, there is always a risk of hitting underground lines,” said Drew Tiger, the project manager for the fiber-to-the-home portion of the installation. “Sometimes underground lines are not recorded by previous construction projects, or not accurately identified, or the records are outdated. But we will take every precaution to avoid hitting underground lines and will repair any damage immediately.”

In preparation for construction, Wahzhazhe Connect staff offered presentations during public dialogues with residents. Joined by ACRS Resident Engineer Kyle Giblet, staff members shared expectations about how construction will impact the neighborhood, the timeline for completing the project, and ways residents can communicate with the project with any comments, questions, or concerns during construction.

During the Fairfax City Council meeting, Trumbly formally requested permission to proceed with construction in the neighborhood. Town officials granted permission for construction, with Wahzhazhe Connect committing to working closely with Hobie Robertson and the public works department during construction.

Field technician trainees have completed the first round of classroom and field training, which will be followed by additional classroom and field training later this summer focused on aerial construction.

After construction in Fairfax Senior Housing is completed in the next few weeks, construction is scheduled to begin in both Pawhuska and Grayhorse Indian Camps.