Southern Ute Indian Tribe

Broadband Modernization Project – F.A.Q.

Updated 9/12/22

Safety, Environmental, Cultural, Permitting:

Question: Are there going to be unsafe levels for exposure to RF (Radio Frequency) energy?

Response:  No.  Fiber optic cables does not carry any risk in terms of electromagnetic radiation as it is just light passing through glass strands. The RF levels from the new tower broadband equipment are well within the Federal Communications Commission prescribed safe levels for human exposure. The Federal Communications Commission is required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to evaluate the effect of emissions from FCC-regulated transmitters on the quality of the human environment. The FCC has an extensive FAQ section that provides an official response to many of the questions that we have received. Please see the FCC’s website regarding “FCC Policy on Human Exposure | Federal Communications Commission” and “RF Safety FAQ | Federal Communications Commission (”

2.5 GHz: This transmitter will use a frequency band from 2502 to 2532 MHz and has a maximum input power of 5 Watts. The maximum power density for a person or animal at ground level is .000033 mW/cm2. For reference the FCC’s Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) at 2.5 GHz is 1.0 mW/cm2. This permissible level is 30,000 times higher than this transmitter is capable of generating.

5 GHz: This transmitter will use a frequency band from 5150 to 5925 MHz and has a maximum input power of 32 Watts. The maximum power density for a person or animal at ground level is .00032 mW/cm2. For reference the FCC’s Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) at 5 GHz is also 1.0 mW/cm2. This permissible level is 3000 times higher than this transmitter is capable of generating.

Question: What is radiofrequency and microwave radiation?

Response: Please see the FCC’s website to understand the differences between radiofrequency and microwave radiation:

Question: Will there be any biological effects caused by RF energy?

Response: No, the RF levels are well within the levels specified by the FCC as safe for human exposure. Please see this link from the FCC for more details:

Question: Are wireless cellular and broadband communication service towers and antennas safe?

Response: Yes. The FCC has over 30 years of research into RF safety and the possible effects. Please see the FCC’s link on RF safety:

Question: Are cellular and other radio towers located near homes or schools safe for residents and students?

Response: Yes, they are. The FCC has over 30 years of research into RF Safety and the possible effects. Please see the FCC’s link on RF Safety:

Question: We have individuals in our community who suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity. Will the towers comply with the FCC’s limitations on human exposure to radiofrequency radiation?

Response: The Tribe will be using Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved and licensed spectrum. The RF levels are substantially less than the minimum requirements specified by the FCC. The FCC is required by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to evaluate the effect of emissions from FCC-regulated transmitters on the quality of the human environment. The FCC has an extensive FAQ section that provides an official response to many RF Safety questions. We would refer the County and interested citizens to the FCC’s RF Safety FAQ webpage for more information. Click here for more information: FCC Policy on Human Exposure | Federal Communications Commission and Click here for detailed, specific FAQ responses: RF Safety FAQ | Federal Communications Commission ( The Tribe’s intent is to maximize the use of fiber in its network. In the short-term, however, towers providing wireless service are needed to more quickly provide accessible, robust internet service to the area. The Tribe’s Phase I fiber will be used to supplant existing RF backhaul thus reducing some RF transmission.

Question: Will this project disrupt my property?

Response: All underground fiber lines will be placed within State, County, local or oil and gas road rights-of-way. Boring (underground drilling) will be used to place fiber under driveways. Any inadvertent damage will be reclaimed. Cameras on the construction equipment will be used to determine before and after conditions of any property damage.

Question: How are we protecting animals?

Response: The Tribe is following all guidelines recommended in a Biological Assessment that was prepared in consultation with the Tribe’s Wildlife Department, Colorado Department of Transportation, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

Question: How are we protecting the environment?

Response: The construction methods used will minimize the overall amount of ground disturbance. Areas that are affected will be properly restored, seeded, and fertilized as required by the local permitting authority. Boring will be used to place fiber under any sensitive areas like wetlands, rivers, and ditches. The Tribe has significantly increased the amount of underground boring to achieve one-hundred percent wetlands avoidance. The Tribe makes the protection of the Reservation’s land, animals, people, and overall environment a top priority.

Question: Placement of fiber lines in county road right of way shall comply with the 2014 Global Grant of Right of Way Agreement between the County, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Second Amended and Restated Temporary Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Construction Within Certain Road Rights of Way Within the Boundaries of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

Response: In accordance with the 2014 Global Grant of Right of Way Agreement among the Tribe, BIA, and the County, the Tribe has consulted with the County Department of Public Works regarding the Tribe’s plans and specifications.

Question: From an environmental impact perspective, the placement of fiber lines in road right of ways is encouraged as this is a standard practice for utilities and utilizes previously disturbed areas.

Response: The Tribe agrees that the placement of fiber lines in road rights-of-way minimizes environmental impacts. For that reason, the Tribe’s plan is to place its fiber optic lines mostly in previously disturbed County Road and State highway rights-of-way and to minimize surface disturbance.

Question: Will you be in compliance with 47 Code 324 (use of minimum power) as homes and nesting red tail hawks are in close proximity to this proposed tower?


  • The Tribe intends to comply with all laws that are applicable to its broadband infrastructure including the operation of its towers.
  • The Tribe’s Biological Assessment (BA) ensures protection of wildlife.
    • The Tribe has identified and is taking steps to protect endangered species.
    • Construction activities are scheduled to not interfere with breeding, migration, hibernation, etc.
    • The Tribe’s process includes surveying raptors and bird nests, within 7 days prior to construction.
    • The Tribe detected an active red-tailed hawk nest off of CR 516 on the NE Route and determined that no construction will take place within one-third of a mile of this active nest, until after July 15th, to protect nesting activities.
    • The Tribe has also documented an active Great Horned Owl nest, and an American kestrel nest (two other raptors) within the broadband project vicinity.
  • Shared Services consults with the Tribe’s Wildlife Division to determine the appropriate actions needed to protect wildlife.

Question: Is a NEPA review planned for this proposed tower?

Response:  The Tribe appreciates this question. The National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) requires federal agencies to prepare environmental impact statements when there is a proposal for a major federal action that significantly affects the quality of the human environment. The Tribe is undertaking the construction of towers through tribal direct development. Because tribal direct development involves no grants of rights-of-way or leases to third parties, there is no federal Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval required and, therefore, no BIA action that would trigger NEPA compliance. The Federal Communications Commission, however, treats registering, and licensing towers and facilities intended to host licensed services as major actions that trigger agency NEPA obligations. Consequently, the Tribe (as a Commission 2.5 GHz licensee) has endeavored to comply with the Commission’s requirements for environmental review and the Commission’s environmental regulations implementing NEPA.

  • Under the Commission’s rules, a new tower is categorically excluded and, therefore, will be considered not to have a significant environmental effect, and no environmental assessment must be prepared, unless the tower is one of eight types of facilities that are listed in the Commission’s rule at 47 C.F.R. § 1.1307. The Tribe has examined the list of facilities in 47 C.F.R. § 1.1307 that may have a significant environmental effect and for which an environmental assessment must be prepared and determined that the Tribe’s new towers do not trigger the need for a separate environmental assessment. Notwithstanding that no separate environmental assessment is required under the Commission’s rules, the Tribe has prepared a robust environmental assessment, biological assessment, and cultural resources impacts analysis for Phase 1 of its broadband project.
  • Also, the Tribe understands that notification of the Federal Aviation Administration is required for any tower construction or alteration of an antenna structure that is registered with the Commission’s Antenna Structure Registration (“ASR”) system. Towers that meet certain height and location criteria (generally towers more than 200 feet above ground level or located near an airport) require notice to the FAA and ASR registration with the Commission. Prior to completing registration with the Commission, an antenna structure owner must have notified the FAA (via FAA Form 7460-1) and received a final determination of “no hazard” from the FAA.
  • The Tribe has used the FAA’s “Notice Criteria Tool” and the FCC’s “Antenna Structure Registration” tool for the Falfa Tower. The Tribe’s use of the FCC’s tool resulted in the following “TOWAIR Determination Result”:
    • This structure requires FAA notification and FCC registration, based on a check of the coordinates, heights, and structure type you provided. As detailed below, one or more of the determination results produced a “fall slope” result, which means registration is required.
    • For the Tribe’s new towers, the FAA’s “Notice Criteria Tool” yielded the following result:
      • You exceed the following Notice Criteria:
        • Your proposed structure is in proximity to a navigation facility and may impact the assurance of navigation signal reception. The FAA, in accordance with 77.9, requests that you file.
        • 9(b) by 96 ft. The nearest airport is DRO, and the nearest runway is 03/21.
        • The FAA request that you file.
      • Accordingly, the Tribe is in the process of (1) filing with the FAA and (2) registering with the FCC.

Question: How will it affect the environment and humans that live around there?

Response: To ensure protection of the human environment, the Tribe prepared an environmental assessment of the project. The project is being constructed in accordance with certain design criteria that are listed in the environmental assessment. The design criteria are site-specific measures developed to minimize potential effects associated with the project.

Construction and Project Timeline:

Question: How do we know the constructions workers who are working on this broadband project?

Response: All construction contractors are required to have required governmental authorizations (e.g., a crossing permit and vehicle tag issued by the Tribe’s Lands Division). These documents are in each construction vehicle and will provide proof that the work is associated with the Tribe’s broadband project.

Question: How long will construction crews be working near/around my property?

Response: Depending on the type of underground placement work that’s being done (bore, trench, plow) the crew(s) should be able to complete the work around your property in 1-3 days.

Question: When will I be notified of future construction work near my property?

Response: All residences in the affected areas will be notified by the Tribe when the project is officially starting. With the overall project potentially taking 12+ months to complete, the anticipated dates of when the project will be near your specific property is unknown at this time. Please follow the “Latest News” section on our project web site. The Tribe will also provide routine updates to the public on construction zones to educate the public and to help ensure the safety of workers.

Question: A professional engineer’s certification that the proposed facility, or the proposed modification to an existing facility, is structurally sound should be obtained (Land Use Code Sec. 73-21.V.6).

Response: All new towers and modifications to existing towers will have PE stamps.

Question: New telecommunications towers or other structures intended to support an antenna facility should be capable of supporting at least two (2) additional antenna facilities (Land Use Code Sec. 73-21.IV.C).

Response: The Tribe’s towers will be engineered to allow load for additional wireless antennas (5 GHz, 60 GHz) and at least one cellular carrier equipment.

Question: When will the new network be activated?

Response: The goal of the project is to activate the network in 2023.  It could take up to 5-years to complete the 400+ miles of fiber and install drops to homes. 

Question: When will the new network reach to the eastern and western regions?

Response: The eastern and western regions are in the Tribe’s plans. Timing is dependent on availability of funding and requires the completion of our current Phase I, II scope of work to build the middle-mile fiber network.

Question: Will the towers be camouflaged in any way to look more like trees or poles?

Response: No. The Tribe considered tree-looking towers but found they were much taller, more visible, and more expensive. The Tribe’s new towers are 80-feet tall, and the project website has renderings of the towers. The Tribe will explore pole-looking towers (like flag poles) for future towers, but they were not suitable in Phase I of the Tribe’s plan to meet the FCC coverage timelines.

Question: Although the location of fiber hubs is generally identified in the materials provided, there is no detailed information provided on this type of facility such as whether they are above or below ground, visible after construction, fit entirely in the ROW, etc.

Response: The fiber hubs and hand holds are below ground and in the rights-of-way. The covers are at ground level, like a sprinkler system cover.  There will be visible above ground signage marking fiber lines. 

Question: What is the plan when it is time for the towers to be abandoned or removed? Is there a reclamation plan?

Response: These towers will have a long-life span for broadband, cellular, and other communication needs. When the time comes, the Tribe will dissemble and reclaim the location.

Question: Will the equipment at ground level be in an enclosed structure or screened? Is there security fencing?

Response: Both. Fiber handholds are at ground level, like a sprinkler box.  Some signage will be visible marking fiber lines.  Electronics at any tower locations will be in an electronics hut and the tower and hut will be inside security fencing.

Broadband Scope and Benefits:

Question: I am curious if non-Tribal members will be granted permission to use this system. I live in Oxford, and currently use the repeater on Mesa Mountain. I currently get 3 Mbps…

Response: The Tribe’s long-term plan is for broadband to be made available to anyone within the Southern Ute Indian Reservation boundary and/or within range of one of the towers. Specific details are still being worked out and as more information becomes available it will be posted on the project’s public website. Once the towers are activated, only then will residents know if their home is covered by the new network, but Oxford should be in the new coverage area. If NTIA provides funding to the Tribe to expand middle-mile fiber, this will enable more affordable fiber drops to the home as well, depending on the location of the home.

Question: What will broadband provide for me?

Response: Initially, increased fiber and improved wireless coverage will be made available for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This increase in coverage will provide access to the internet for more households and should drive internet costs down. As Phase II is completed, fiber-to-the-home will become an option in the more populated areas within the Reservation, further increasing the bandwidth and resiliency of the available Internet access. Broadband will provide access to the Internet to enable wi-fi calling from home, access to tele-medicine, the ability to work from home or do remote schooling or enjoy content streaming on platforms like Netflix.

Question: Will this project disrupt my property or decrease the value of my property?

Response: All underground fiber lines will be placed within State, County, local or oil and gas road rights-of-way. Boring (underground drilling) will be used to place fiber under driveways. Any inadvertent damage will be reclaimed. Cameras on the construction equipment will be used to determine before and after conditions of any property damage. And by adding Fiber to your property it increases the value of your property by an average of 3%.

Tribal Vision for Broadband Operation:

Question: Will others be allowed to collocate on the towers? If so, what process must they follow?

Response: No. Only the Tribe or any authorized service providers will be allowed to work on, or place equipment on, the towers. The Tribe is still in the process of determining our business model to allow cellular companies or area ISP’s to tie into the wireless signals emitted from the towers, but the Tribe will not allow others on the tower unless the Tribe has an agreement from a managed service provider to help support the towers.

Question: Who will be financially responsible for the last mile of fiber?

Response: Last mile and any fiber drops to the home will be part of the new business model that needs to be fully defined. In Phase I, the last mile will be the wireless signal transmitted from the two new towers and four existing towers.  The Town of Ignacio is currently in our Phase I scope and includes all homes.  Final engineering is underway for Ignacio.  In future phases, the project will focus on additional “middle-mile” fiber that will enable additional wireless coverage on the Reservation and set up the ability to deliver last-mile fiber more easily and cheaply to the home. All of this is dependent on future funding, but the fiber network when complete will be available for any local internet service provider to tap into the network. If our NTIA Grant is approved a majority of Tribal and Native homes will be provided with drops to the home.  The Tribe is applying for additional grant funds to put fiber to the homes of non-natives.  Area ISP’s can then compete for the resident’s business with fiber or wireless coverage. 

Question: Will the available broadband be offered on the same terms and conditions to all parties or at rates commensurate to those offered by other broadband providers? Are the rates subject to FCC/PUC review?

Response: The cost is to be determined but the Tribe is anticipating that the terms and conditions will be the same for any ISP. Whether the Tribe’s rates will be subject to FCC or Colorado PUC review is a legal and jurisdictional question on which further legal review is necessary.

Question: Will the Tribe essentially perform like a broadband provider, or does it just own the infrastructure consisting of the towers and fiber and then rent space on the towers or fiber capacity to broadband providers?

Response: The Tribe still is in the process of formulating its business plans. The Tribe’s preliminary plan is to operate the network as an “Open Access” network that will be available to any ISPs in the area. There will be a cost, to be determined, to tap into the network, but one of the Tribe’s goals is to make broadband faster, more robust, and more affordable. The cost would depend on whether ISPs are tapping into the wireless or fiber services.

Question: Is the network to be constructed considered publicly owned or tribally owned?

Response: Tribally owned.

Question: What is the span of service for the improved broadband system?

Response: The towers will broadcast in the FCC’s 2.5 GHz spectrum, 5 GHz depending on saturation, and possibly cellular frequencies.  The Tribe’s licensed area includes the unused 2.5 GHz spectrum on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Service is not planned to go beyond the boundaries of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Reservation. The FCC has stipulations about noninterference with other 2.5 GHz transmitters, and the Tribe’s license is constrained to the Reservation boundaries and the Tribe’s planned fiber paths are almost entirely within the Reservation as well.  The ultimate goal is fiber to the home, but the 2.5GHz spectrum will help serve residents where fiber deployment is not practical. 

Question: How will the project keep abreast with technology?

Response: Fiber is a long-term technology, and our design is for the long-term using large conduit with seven micro-ducts for generational capacity. Beyond continuous refresh of electronics as they evolve in the future, we are looking at other technologies to keep improving speed, while driving down the cost. Private LTE, 60 GHz spectrum, and other technologies will continue to allow improvements on broadband speed and quality.

Question: “We note that in your communications with the Federal Communications Commission you indicate that this project will improve wireless broadband service to 85% of the households on the Reservation and 95% of all tribal homes. We are still unclear and would appreciate clarification that the project will serve at least 85% of non-tribal households living within the exterior boundaries of the Reservation and, if so, whether the timing and conditions of such service will mirror that of services to tribal homes.”

Response: The Tribe’s 2.5 GHz license from the Federal Communications Commission will be used to improve communication in a few areas:

  1. Serve area residents in remote, unserved areas.
  2. Serve the Tribe for network redundancy for Tribal Operations.
  3. Support improved cellular coverage for carriers that can take advantage of the 2.5GHz spectrum.