September 04, 2009

Tulalip telecommunications cooperative  Tribes aim to enter telecom biz

By John Cook and Eric EnglemanThe Tulalip Tribes are stepping into the telecom business with an effort to use federal stimulus funds to bring high-speed internet to other tribal areas and rural communities in Snohomish, Whatcom and Skagit counties.

The Tulalips, whose reservation spans 22,000 acres west of Marysville, recently connected their broadband network to a Seattle-based exchange that gave them a cheaper and faster internet connection. Now the Tulalips, working with Seattle-based technology firm Cascadeo, have created a nonprofit cooperative and applied for $12 million in federal stimulus money to push that network into remote parts of the state that have been beyond the reach of broadband.

In doing so, the Tulalips, known for their stunning casino along Interstate 5, are positioning themselves to be a major telecom hub for northwest Washington. Such a project could have broad implications for rural economic development in the state, allowing for web-based businesses, videoconferencing and other technologies that have become common in most metropolitan areas.

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