Fiber optics has come to the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation.

Sam Houston State University is the hub of the project involving 85 miles of fiber optic lines networking the university, the reservation, and three public school systems serving the Tribe.

The Big Sandy, Woodville and Livingston school districts will be on-line when work is completed by the Rural Education System Network under a $750,000 grant provided by Houston Endowment Inc. and administered by the university.

Telemedicine is also an integral part of the project with a $340,000 grant by the Department of Agriculture to acquire teleradiology equipment with fiber connected to the Indian Health Service clinic at the Indian Reservation, and area hospitals. The network will allow access to physicians and services at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

"The tribal technology project is one of the most progressive endeavors in the rural east Texas area and will enhance the capabilities of health service, education and economic development in the region," said Roland Poncho, chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribal Council. "The potential as we enter the 21st century through the tribal technology project is endless."

Participants in the multi-partner project gathered in July to mark the connection of the 96 fiber optic line cable to the reservation east of Livingston.

"We will have patients being examined by medical experts through the telemedicine program at local clinics in the area," said Poncho. "Our schools will be ahead of others in our national educational goal to have all rural and urban school districts connected to the Internet by the year 2000. Seminars and conferences at distance places will soon be accessed through video teleconferencing. The bright technology age is banging on our doors."

Bill Covington, associate vice president for research and sponsored programs at SHSU, represented Bobby K. Marks, SHSU president, at the ceremony.

"We're really pleased that we've finally got something to show for all the effort," Covington said of the 3-year-old project. "To have cable actually hung is wonderful."

Poncho praised the cooperation of the other partners as well, including the Sam Houston Electric Co-Op, Volt Information Sciences, Inc., of California, which trained the all-Indian team performing the cable installation, Lucent Technology Inc. Network Systems of Dallas, and Entergy, Inc.


Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak

July 9, 1997