Southern Ute Reservation

Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Broadband Modernization Project

What is Broadband?

  • Broadband is the transmission of data over a high-speed internet connection.
  • Broadband data is sent via many technologies like fiber optics, wireless, TV cable, and satellite.
  • Fiber Optics is like a phone line but is used to send data at high-speed through glass strands.


Project Overview

  • Fiber optic infrastructure is the newest “Utility” being built across the globe.
  • Until now, fiber optic installation has been limited to major population centers and for “backbone” fiber to transmit large amounts of data.
  • Federal and State governments are now funding fiber installation projects targeting rural areas and tribal lands.
  • The Southern Ute Tribal Council designated the Broadband Modernization project as a top priority to close the Digital Divide on the Reservation.
  • This project is a multi-year project that when complete, will connect 95% of the Reservation homes to this new utility.
  • All construction will take place along the side of the road. Boring machines will be used to go under all driveways, utilities, ditches, wetlands, and other environmentally sensitive areas.
  • Plan to Activate segments of the new network the Summer of 2023.

Project Phases

FCC 2.5GHz Deployment

  • Deploy wireless options utilizing FCC 2.5 GHz license
  • Construct 1 new tower and add 52 miles of fiber
  • Provide 50/10 Mbps


  • Funding in place through State and Federal grants ($15M).
  • Main priority is to build the tribal backbone of the network.

Expanded Fiber Network

  • Deploy fiber to align with potential funding
  • Deliver fiber to more populated tribal areas
  • Provide 100/100 Mbps or higher up to Gbps speed


  • Grant ($44M) awarded from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program.
  • Funding will deploy fiber to connect 95% of Native American homes and enable expansion for non-Native and commercial uses.

Full Reservation Coverage

  • Extend fiber and/or wireless across the reservation
  • Partner with cellular carriers to improve coverage


  • Not currently funded
  • New grants taking applications in 2023 to expand the network to reach 95% of all residents and businesses within the exterior boundary of the Reservation.


  • Deploy wireless broadband using a license granted to the Tribe by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • Must provide 50/10 speed reaching 50% of the homes within the Reservation by October 21, 2024 and 80% by October 21, 2028 to retain the FCC license.
  • Bonfire Engineering & Construction hired to design/build the network.
  • Final design includes 1 new tower, use of 4 existing towers.  The Design: Redesign of tower location to help cover more of the reservation.
  • Enables future improvement of cellular coverage and emergency services communication within the Reservation.
  • Temporary storage and construction yard built off CR 318 just south of Ignacio. This secure facility will be used for the duration of the construction phase.

Wireless Broadband

Fiber Map

phase 1 fiber map
Phase I fiber map


  • Wireless network is being redesigned.
  • New communication towers are 80 feet tall to optimize coverage while minimizing visibility.
    • Average electrical pole is 50 feet tall.
  • Will use low profile galvanized steel towers.
    • Tree “type” towers were explored but are taller and more visible.

County Road 334 (Ponderosa) Tower Simulation

County Road 334 Tower
County Road 334 Tower

County Road 334 (Ponderosa) Tower Proposed Location

Detailed Engineering

Every foot of fiber fully engineered to:

  • Stay in road right-of-way
  • Minimize and repair any disturbances
  • Protect sensitive environments
  • Protect culturally sensitive areas
  • Avoid existing utilities
Detailed Engineering
Detailed Engineering

Phase II – Fiber Connected Homes

  • Construct 298 miles of middle-mile, distribution lines, and drops to the homes of 1,798 native American households within the Reservation.
  • Detailed engineering completed ahead of the NTIA grant application process.
  • Fiber Operations vendor selected. Improved communication and marketing to begin in April.
  • Major materials (conduit, fiber, pedestals) procured.
  • Construction expected to begin in May/June timeframe.
  • The network will be run as an Open Access Network that will improve the quality, speed and affordability of broadband.
  • Internet Service Providers will get fair and cost-effective wholesale pricing that allows “approved” Internet Service Providers to join the network, leading to beneficial competition, lower consumer prices, and higher consumer satisfaction.
  • NTIA award requires adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
  • Request for Proposals (RFPs) to be submitted for:
      1. Project Permitting – Environmental, Biological, Cultural, Historic Preservation.
      2. Fiber Construction Contractor.
  • The project will be broken up into segments to aid in achieving NEPA compliance. This will allow segments that are more easily permitted to move forward with construction.
  • Higher density areas like Ignacio, Arboles, and subdivisions are top priorities.
  • Seeking funding to connect non-natives and new commercial customers.

Detailed Fiber to the Home Map

  • Detailed Fiber to the Home map. Red signifies Tribal Member addresses.
  • Does not include connection to the home, only fiber hubs to enable home connect.
Fiber connected homes
Fiber connected homes
Phase II fiber map
Phase II fiber map