KENWOOD, Okla. (KFOR) – The Cherokee Nation worked alongside AT&T to broaden wireless connectivity for Cherokee citizens.
According to the Cherokee Nation, residents of Kenwood were driving more than ten miles away just to get mobile cell service.
In collaboration with AT&T, the Cherokee Nation built a new cell tower in March to provide the 1,000-member population with secure, dependable and fast connectivity.
“The Kenwood community is rural, but together Cherokee Nation and AT&T came to the table with a plan and a solution,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Over the past year we have formed a strong working relationship and I’m proud to say this community is not forgotten. For the first time, citizens here have access to wireless service and more high-speed internet to access the vital resources they need.”
The Tribe says the tower is also improving public safety by giving Cherokee Nation first responders reliable coverage and compacity on the public safety network FirstNet.
The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the community’s needs regarding connectivity. Stable internet is needed to use tribal services, healthcare, emergency services, education and Cherokee language services.
Tribe officials say federal funding from the American Rescue Plan made closing the digital divide and broadening connectivity to citizens possible.
“We are proud to be working with the Cherokee Nation to expand our broadband network so more Cherokee citizens have access to high-quality connectivity with AT&T 5G,” said AT&T executive Chris Sambar. “Our purpose is to connect people to greater possibility. And this new cell tower will open doors for Kenwood residents by providing access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities and so much more.”
A celebration was held on Wednesday in Kenwood to unveil the new cell tower. The 355-foot tall tower was the star of the celebration to show the community that they are now connected with high-quality service for the first time.
Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief Bryan Warner says that he hopes the cell tower off School Road will be an example for other communities within the Cherokee Nation.
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“Some of our citizens have gone without adequate internet and wireless service, but Cherokee Nation is changing that,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “Working with AT&T we laid a framework of possibility to connect more of our communities that aren’t connected today.”
According to the Cherokee Nation, the project was developed in 2020 when people were isolated and were required to work, attend school and access services from home. The Cherokee Nation realized the need for reliable connectivity and mobile networks for tribal communities.
“What was important at the time, was that AT&T was willing to sit down and listen to the needs the Cherokee Nation had which was, ‘how do we fix cell service in rural communities?'” Council of the Cherokee Nation Speaker Mike Shambaugh said. “Together, we looked at this as a joint effort and here we are, celebrating the completion.
The Cherokee Nation says it is also in the process of building Kenwood a new community center as well as new waterline infrastructure and more housing for Cherokee speakers.