By Casey Brown of the CUJ
MISSION – Broadband speeds on the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s “UmaRez” network have been ramped up to assist reservation residents and tribal members who are working or going to school from home due to COVID-19.
Marguarite Becenti said that CTUIR’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) has increased bandwidth speed and replaced hardware, which resulted in a significant increase.
Becenti is the director of OIT and a member of the COVID-19 Incident Command Team (ICT).
Free, public wi-fi is available on the reservation. The network is called “UmaRez.”
Residents can access the broadband by signing in with their email and agreeing to a disclaimer that they are on public wi-fi provided by the CTUIR.
Becenti said that some people had suggested utilizing parked vans as “hot spots,” but she says that the upgrades should be enough to provide adequate internet access to those who need it.
“If the upgrades we’ve done aren’t enough we can look at mobile hot spots,” she said.
She says that most housing residents in the housing projects near the July Grounds should have high enough speeds with the new upgrades, but for those who do not get enough speed she noted the places where wi-fi is fastest.
Marcus Luke, director of housing, says it is “pretty simple” to access the wi-fi network, including in the tribal housing projects located near the July Grounds.
In the July Grounds, she listed the old Yellowhawk building, old Nixyaawii Community School, and the Cay-Uma-Wa building.
“If they can’t get it in their homes, then they can park there and access UmaRez,” she said.
OIT started conducting speed tests in 2019 throughout the reservation that were used for this upgrade project, and will continue to be used for future goals of CTUIR’s Broadband Team.
In one area of tribal housing near Walla Walla Court, speeds went from 15 megabytes (MB) to a minimum of 190MB. Bencenti says that depending on how many people are using the wi-fi at any one time, speeds have been as has as 290MB.
“That’s a huge improvement.”
The City of Pendleton also offers free, public wi-fi. It is called “Kix” and provided courtesy of the Pendleton Public Library.
According to the City website, Kix is available in the Main Street area and downtown parks. Best connections are listed as City Hall/Library, Brownfield Park, and Rudy Rada Skatepark, among others. For more information, visit https://pendleton.or.us/pendleton-kix-wi-fi-access.