ADOT working on $100 million project to lay broadband along I-17

Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 21:50:47-05

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — Be it business, education or healthcare, access to the internet is vital for connecting people to resources, but there are still hundreds of thousands in Arizona who still don't have access.

ADOT, however, is in the middle phase of a $100 million project that's aimed at providing broadband access to rural and tribal communities across the state.

You can see ADOT crews currently laying broadband cable along the I-17, north of Camp Verde to Flagstaff.

"It's pretty minimal work in the sense that it doesn't disrupt a lot of traffic, but it's obviously very vital to what we're trying to do here," said ADOT Spokesperson Doug Nick.

The overall goal he says is to connect communities.

"That's so vital to our economy. People are buying things online, they're paying bills online, we have tele-medicine needs," Nick said.

Nick says there are 800,000 households in Arizona that are either underserved or have no broadband access at all. And he says more than 90% of tribal nations are currently going without.

"Once this project gets underway and gets more and more robust in its implementation, those people will have more access to broadband Internet, and that's huge for so many reasons," Nick said.

"We're really looking forward to this project and getting broadband in our community," said Jon Huey, Chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

Huey says they're working closely with ADOT to make sure his people get access.

"We at the Yavapai-Apache Nation are from a rural community and these services are life-threatening. Water, infrastructure, electricity, and broadband. This controls our medical center, has influence on our law enforcement, even our government administration. We consider it priority number one," Huey said.

Rebecca Delise is a single mom to a 13-year-old girl who's taking classes remotely for school.

"It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to be able to have her at home and still be connected to school," she said.

It's when their internet goes down temporarily that she can empathize with people who live without it every day.

"We had to run to where we could find the nearest free hotspot just so she could upload a paper," Delise said.

Beyond the personal benefits, ADOT says broadband allows them to track radar and run emergency signs for drivers during dust and snowstorms.

"So the safety aspect is really good," Nick said. "We can make smart highways, and have smart highway technology to better serve the drivers and have a safer environment for them."

Nick says the next phase of the broadband project includes the I-19 between Tucson and Nogales, and eventually the I-40 between Flagstaff and Kingman.