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Native American Wireless ISP Launched 301

babynerd writes "On Tuesday June 1st the Coeur dAlene tribe unveiled the Turbocharged Broadband Geek Project. The scheme, organized by project head Valerie Fast Horse and funded by a $2.8 million dollar grant from the USDA Rural Utilities Service and a 15% in kind match from the tribe itself, will help build a community technology center (CTC) with 40 computers, and a wireless broadband ISP that will provide high-speed wireless access to anyone living on and near the reservation at a price comparable to that of any other DSL or Cable Internet providers - there's currently no broadband Internet access of any kind available."
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Native American Wireless ISP Launched

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  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:42PM (#9360275)
    My biggest complaint about this is that the non-natives are funding this venture through the USDA Rural Utilities Service... Why doesn't their own tribe [] fund this effort? I have a feeling that they making more than enough money there to foot the $2.8 million bill themselves. Isn't that what those things are on reservations for? To build better Native American communities?
    • by themaddone ( 180841 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:44PM (#9360294)
      Oh, gee, you know, trivial things like roads and schools, stuff the Gov't doesn't really fund.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Oh so you are claiming that they spend ALL their money on other infastructure and are non-profit thus they don't have the 2.8 million for this venture.

        I can't speak for this particular reservation but the ones I have seen in WI and MN certainly are not helping build roads and taking care of their people as well as you infer that they are.
        • by irokitt ( 663593 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (ruai-setirdnamihcra)> on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:15PM (#9360581)
          I live within driving distance of about 4 reservations, 3 of which have casinos. 2 of those are less than 10 minutes from me.

          By and large, those two casinos send most of their money to out-of-state banks that fronted the money to build the casinos in the first place (and those banks are connected to Vegas). That will taper down once the casinos have paid most of the debt off. Some of the money gets sent to the state in the form of "taxes" (that's right, in order to have a casino the tribes do pay the state money). The rest gets split up amongst the reservation, tribal members, and employees (not all of whom are tribe members).

          In my community, the nearby casinos have paid millions of dollars (about 4 million total) to widen roads and improve the traffic situation-things which have been needed for a long time (a decade and a half) but didn't start to happen until casinos were built and the money became available. Both nearby reservations are undergoing environmental cleanup, since years of mis-management have made them polluted, dangerous places to live. Schools desperately needing rebuilding have been rebuilt.

          There are a lot of things that are bad about the casinos. I personally don't like to gamble and blame the casinos for the surge in DUI activity that I've seen around here. But at least here, where I am, some of that money is being very well spent and the tribes, who were historically shown the finger by both state and local governments, are worlds removed from the state they were in just a decade ago.
          • I read a magazine article addressing the "trickling down of funds". doesn't happen in many of them. The few who get the casinos get all the profit and the others on the reservations are living in poverty. Its sad really and I wish I had an online link to the story. I believe it was in National Geographic. I'm sure there are exceptions to this.
            • It doesn't sound sad to me, it sounds like justice. Why should tribes who put out the effort pay to support tribes who either don't put out the effort to put up casinos, or don't want those evil dens of iniquity on their land?

              Then again, why should I pay for internet access for native americans? I can understand tax money going to support them, make their land livable and so on since the US government took it all away to begin with, but it's not like we robbed them of their broadband internet access...


        • Based on the Reservations that I know of in SD, the casino revenue is dispersed to tribal members and each one does it differently. In the early 90s, one tribe was giving away $1000/month to every adult member and $250/month to every kid. But they had to live inside a particular county, and that upset those that were still members, but didn't live within the county. Building roads and schools was still a function of the state and Feds, respectively.

      • by general_re ( 8883 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:52PM (#9360910) Homepage
        Oh, gee, you know, trivial things like roads and schools, stuff the Gov't doesn't really fund.

        Riiiight. And if you pull the other one, it plays a little tune for you. Funny how they could afford $3 million for new slot machines [] all by themselves. Or how they can afford a $15 million hotel expansion [] all by themselves. Or how they could afford a $32 million casino expansion [] to add a sporting arena and 18-hole golf course all by themselves.

        No, I think it's tolerably obvious that they can also afford to pay for their own wireless network all by themselves. I think it's also tolerably obvious where their spending priorities lie - why buy wireless for yourself when Uncle Sucker will step up to the plate? Who needs wireless when we've got empty floor space where we can squeeze in more slots?

    • by FreeLinux ( 555387 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:48PM (#9360345)
      Why doesn't their own tribe fund this effort?

      Because the tribe, as are most casino operators, are good business men. They know a good investment when they see one and they know how to take advantage of an opportunity to make more money.

      Looking at it from a business perspective, it isn't very attractive at all. However, looking at it from the perspective of using someone else's money to provide yourselve's with services is quite attractive. Hence, the casino avoids such investments and the tribe benefits. It's sort of the same way that government grants support crappy research projects that the private sector wouldn't touch.
      • Who's We?, and why isn't "They" part of "We". I was strangely under the impression that so called "native americans" were citizens of this country and have the right to vote.

        I also don't recall killing anyones ancestors, and I don't know anyone who did. This "we" and "they" crap is missleading. There's no we, and there's no they.
        • I also don't recall killing anyones ancestors, and I don't know anyone who did.

          And yet you are directly benefiting from those who did. If you are not directly benefiting from those who did, you are not a US Citizen nor living in the United States, and hence the "we" isn't really inclusive of you. And as far as "THEY" go, while I'm not sure of the reservations current status, historically Indian nations on reservations were viewed as non-citizens, that were not due the rights and protections of US Citizens

          • In case you didn't notice, quite a high percentage of the US's population has arrived in the last 90 years. Are these third generation immigrants 'we' or 'they'?
            • by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @08:14PM (#9361426) Journal
              Doesn't matter when they arrived, they are now living on land that belong to the Native American people. If a friend gives you a stlen car, you are benefiting from that crime, it doesn't matter that you aren't the one that stole car. If you buy a car from someone who's friend stole the car for him, you are stil benefiting from that crime.

              If big evil corporation employees slave labor to make your shoes, you are benefiting from that crime. If your immigrant father worked as a piss boy for a tycoon whose father got rich building railroads accross the nation that forced native americans off the railroads right of way, you have benefited from that act. If you eat the bread that is produced from the huge American corn and wheat fields you are benefiting from the abuse the native americans suffered. If your Chinese father wasn't slaughtered at the fans of savage Japanese soldiers during World War II its very likely you benefited by the existance of the United States of America, which had the industrial power it did because of the callous way it forced the native peoples of the land it occupied out of its way.

              I'm not suggesting that we return North American to the Native Americans and go home, just pointing out that everybody who is enjoying the freedoms and rights of the United States or has been aided by this nation has benefited by the oppression of the native american people. Unless you have had all your belongs that you couldn't carry 500 miles stolen and forced to live on the least desirable chunk of property the theives could find, you aren't THEY.

          • I'm not benifiting from it any more than any Native American born in the last 100 years. It's not like there are fences around the reservations keeping them in, they've been free to do as they please for as long or longer than my ancestors have been here.

            Exactly how do I benifit and they don't? It's not like I can setup a nearly tax free business, fish as much as I'd like without regard to the laws, hunt when I like regardless of the laws and so on.

            Playing the victem card is getting very old and tiresom

            • I'm not benifiting from it any more than any Native American born in the last 100 years. It's not like there are fences around the reservations keeping them in, they've been free to do as they please for as long or longer than my ancestors have been here.

              I don't know how long your ancestors have been here (in the US), but native american tribes weren't allowed to walk back home after being forcibly marched to their new homes on the reservations. Those who tried might get slaughtered, or at the least forc

          • The irony is, so far as there are "benefits" to be had, the "native americans" currently living in the U.S. today are also benefiting.

            Or would you argue that things like, say, the Internet are awsome for the White Man, but suck for the Red Man?

            • I won't deny you that native americans get some benefit from living inside the borders of the United States, but the conditions many were forced to endure for generations has left many in a position that owning computers isn't really an option. The casino thing is a relatively new phenomea, often funded by outside interests that syphon off profits, and lets not forget the nasty social issues that gambling also brings.

      • Because the tribe, as are most casino operators, are good business men.
        Sorry i've had to learn, for the last 15 years, in school that because the first anglo saxon settlers in America were good business men the entire Native American race has become what it is today. The last thing we need is millions this way millions that way.

        Hence, the casino avoids such investments and the tribe benefits.
        No no you don't understand, the Casino's are not there to avoid investments into their soverign community. Th
    • If they're anything like the Indian tribes in California, they're simply spending too much money bribing politicians to have anything left for useful stuff.
    • by Saxton ( 34078 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:58PM (#9360432) Homepage
      Have you ever driven through a Native American reservation? If we're compensating them, where did we go wrong? Seems like we sent some people into the top 5% tax bracket and left the rest of the tribes in the lowest levels of poverty. Not as nasty as killing their ancestors and forcing them into the worst parts of the country, but it's still pretty bad.

    • They can enter into the on-line gambling business ! And look at the advantages: It will not go off shore to Singapore !
    • For some actual information: Tribal Website []

      May 28, 2004- Leaders of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and invited guests will celebrate on June 1, 2004, the groundbreaking for the Tribe's state-of-the-art Community Technology Center in Plummer, Idaho.
    • My biggest complaint about this is that the non-natives are funding this venture through the USDA Rural Utilities Service... Why doesn't their own tribe fund this effort?

      Good point. Let's just give 'em back their land and call it even.
  • by Greenisus ( 262784 ) <[michael] [at] []> on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:42PM (#9360277) Homepage
    ...very slow bandwidth . . . .
  • Wi-Fi Power (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgrayson ( 22160 ) * on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:43PM (#9360281) Homepage

    If there's ever a sequel to Smoke Signals []:

    "Hey Victor! Your mother makes the best wi-fi!"

    Seriously - great movie, set on the Coeur d'Alene reservation in present day (well, present day six years ago). You'll laugh, you'll cry, it'll become a part of you.

    • Personally I didn't care for the movie much at all. I thought the bit about "magic" was pretty contrived and pretentious, the acting was almost uniformly sub-par, and the comedic relief (e.g. "Frybread Power," "Dances with Salmon") wasn't especially comedic. All of the allegory made me annoyed, rather than inspired.
  • $2.8 Million? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tmasssey ( 546878 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:45PM (#9360306) Homepage Journal
    Doesn't that seem like an awful lot of money for 40-computer technology center and a wireless ISP contained for a community?

    That seems like enough for a *heck* of a buildout and, what? 10 years of expenses? How can I get a piece? :)

    • Re:$2.8 Million? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cat_Byte ( 621676 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:00PM (#9360449) Journal
      I used to work for a company (which will remain nameless) that installed networks for public schools. You wouldn't BELIEVE what they charged. It was way up in the 6 digits just for the cat-5 runs. Then they would have their $15,000 router I was supposed to install with no WAN. I was supposed to "make it blink and serve DHCP or something". Needless to say I quit when I was repeatedly asked to lie for my boss about why they had a million dollars worth of hardware for a grade-school lab. My guess is someone did the same thing to this tribe after they found out how much the grant was. Inflat x% until you use up the whole amount.
      • Re:$2.8 Million? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ElForesto ( 763160 )
        It wouldn't surprise me on that. Contractors have been ripping off government agencies on projects since... well... whenever. Here in the Las Vegas area, the school district has a mandatory furniture replacement policy. Regardless of wear and tear, all the furniture is ripped out every 2 years for new pieces. And yet, somehow, we are told there isn't enough money for schools...

        I think a good moral to this story is to keep a watchful eye on government spending, and don't be afraid to speak up.

        I just realiz
      • Re:$2.8 Million? (Score:4, Informative)

        by bloosqr ( 33593 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:47PM (#9360872) Homepage
        There was an article in the NYTimes about NEC defrauding the federal E-rate program a few weeks ago. That article is gone but here []
        is an AP wire article on the same thing. You did the right thing and its possible if you weren't working for NEC something similar will happen to other companies that are doing the same thing. In fact the NY Times article mentioned that congress going to hold hearings on this issue,
        so it is something that is being looked into quite seriously.

    • Re:$2.8 Million? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:01PM (#9360466) Homepage
      Doesn't that seem like an awful lot of money for...

      2.8 Mill may seem like a lot of cash to you and me, but realistically, it doesn't buy a lot of IT these days. My guess is that building the facility and purchasing the 40 computers and associated equipment don't actually leave a whole lot for the wireless ISP end of the deal, which itself could consume 2.8 mill, easy. It's sad, but that kind of money is relativly minor for an IT investment of this type.

      • Can you back that up with at least a little itemizeation? Because I know for sure that I could get a full wireless ISP for a given area + 40 systems for well under $1 million (largely dependent on the area, but yeah, within reason). If people can start up wireless ISPs for a pitance, I see no reason why it would take this much money unless someone's milking the poor SOBs.
    • err - look at the photos they will answer at least part of your answer ..... back-hoes .... they aren't just buying 40 computers .... they're building a building to put them in ....
      • Re:$2.8 Million? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tmasssey ( 546878 )
        I was just involved with a company who built a new office for themselves. 50-so people. They built a reasonably attractive building in a city, not a reservation. I believe it was about 10,000 sq. ft. Total cost? Under $800,000.

        So that leaves $2 Million. Are we agreed that you could buy 40 extremely nice PC's for under $50,000? Let's add another $50,000 for a server, switches, printers, etc. $100,000 for the setup of 40 systems? I'd do it in a *heartbeat*.

        Now, bandwidth. Let's assume a frac-T3,

    • Forty PC's, a Linksys, and a few switches should cost about $33,000. Less, if you get some coupons.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Valerie Slow Horse prefers a floppy disk for data transfer...
  • by prostoalex ( 308614 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:48PM (#9360341) Homepage Journal
    I live in Spokane, 15 minute drive from CdA, and hopefully this project, if it succeeds, will bring more wireless into the area.

    Right now the greater Spokane area is pretty much monopolized by Qwest's DSL (available some places) and Comcast's cable (available pretty much anywhere else). For a city with 300K plus total population it's a shame.

    • There's a couple long distance wireless providers here, and while all DSL lines are purchased through Qwest you have a huge variety of ISPs to choose from for DSL service. BTW most everything in Spokane, a city with 300K plus population, is a shame.

      At least now we can read Slashdot while playing Blackjack!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:48PM (#9360347)
    Too bad they ain't running [] Apache... maybe they've had bad experiences in the past?
  • Great... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now homeowners associations can keep Indians from putting antenae on thier tee pees
  • by tomwhore ( 10233 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:56PM (#9360413) Homepage Journal
    Want to see what you can get from donations and volunteer efforts? []

    2.8 million would be nice to have, do not get me wrong. Given what we are doing for what we have it would mean a heck of a lot of coverage.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, 2004 @05:59PM (#9360441)
    I'm starting to think my history teacher is psychic. Today, we watched Smoke Signals in class and now there is this in the news. Last week, we finished talking about Ronald Reagan, now he died. A while back, we talked about Elia Kazan in the 50's, within a week, he died. Wierd...

    I should get him to talk about Bill Gates...
  • by Scottm87 ( 689558 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:06PM (#9360510)
    Intresting the history behind this organization... It started as one of the "alphabet soup" programs under Roosevelt during the Great Depression to help provide both employment and electrify the Nation's rural farms. The program was very successful, and established rural "electric cooperatives" that allowed a number of individuals to form their own electric substation at a fraction of the price of the major electric companies. It recieved a lot of flak along with other New Deal projects because it evoked a socialist-like image, and the "red scare" was part of the period. Later, the Rural Electrification project got squished together into the a small piece of the USDA. I wonder if this is the future of the project - if so, it will play a major part at bringing the nation cheap broadband access.
  • I wasnted to know if they had stolen my idea of placing Cell/802.11x antennas inside of totem poles...that would have been interesting given the number of environazis out here in Oregon who do not like to see cell towers in rural areas but might just go for a totem pole.
  • that poet/author Sherman Alexie [] (ever see 'smoke signals', or read 'the lone ranger and tonto fistfight in heaven'?) is from... i wonder if he had anything to do w/ this, or what his thoughts on it are.

    I can just imagine his next story ... "and thomas builds the fire had taken over the computer lab, and was passing out frybreads to all of the children, who before the lab was built would have been out playing basketball"

  • by CoughDropAddict ( 40792 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:28PM (#9360704) Homepage
    The apostrophe isn't a mistake: it's "Coeur d'Alene" (it's French).

    I live there, and it's really annoying when web forms try to "correct" it:

    Coeur Dalene
    Coeur dAlene

    Coeur d'Alene (I really meant it).
    • You would probably love to live in Quebec.


    • Some people strip stuff like that out automatically trying to prevent things like SQL injection attacks - so it is probably not a correction, they are just not sophisticated enough to handle quotes for input.

      It is pretty annoying, and likley not to get better for some time. In fact there are hardware devices that companies are deploying ahead of web servers to protect against attacks, that will also likley strip that "'" and lead to even more sites that munge the name.
    • The apostrophe isn't a mistake: it's "Coeur d'Alene" (it's French).

      Not that that stops anyone from mangling the pronunciation. "Curdalane" seems to suffer from the same affliction as "Battinruge".
    • The apostrophe isn't a mistake: it's "Coeur d'Alene" (it's French).

      I live there, and it's really annoying when web forms try to "correct" it:

      Ditto here.

      I live in Winston-Salem... you wouldn't believe how many websites I can't shop on because they won't accept an apostrophe in the name, and my bank says it has an apostrophe in it...

      Oh and if the name sounds like two cigarette brands with an apostrophe between them, it's actually the opposite. The two cigarette brands are half of this city's name... RJR
  • by sacrilicious ( 316896 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:31PM (#9360727) Homepage
    the Turbocharged Broadband Geek Project. The scheme, organized by project head Valerie Fast Horse

    A previous attempt by a different group of native Americans failed to crystallize into an actual broadband offering. That group's spokesman, Eddie Slow Turtle, had no explanation.

  • by Z4rd0Z ( 211373 ) <joseph at mammalia dot net> on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:33PM (#9360741) Homepage
    Idaho...where men are men and the women, well they kind of look like men too.
  • FCC rules (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FuryG3 ( 113706 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:35PM (#9360764)
    So what are the rules for indian reservations and tribes according to the FCC? Does the FCC have jurisdiction over such areas?
  • Do it right... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:42PM (#9360824)
    Since your actually funded and can, therefore, do better than fabricated pringle-can antenna's and 802.11, I recommend this []. Grown-up wireless that works very well. 802.11 is an adaptation of Ethernet to microwave that does not scale. Canopy was created to do what you want to do.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @06:46PM (#9360861)
    There is a systems integration and networking company here in the American West. I won't name their name, since the I'm going to say some pretty strong things...

    The guy who owns gets a deep discount from distrubution partners because his is a "native-american" owned business. The company wraps themselves in the iconography and their logo is an animal synonymous with the American Indian.

    This guy is ONE-EIGHTH American Indian. I won't even name the tribe. Doesn't matter. This guy is fat, pale white and bald and looks about as American Indian as Tony Soprano. perfect guy to compare him to, as well. Actually, I think Tony is less corrupt.

    Nevertheless, he has a huge advantage over his competition. His discount is about 3 to 4 POINTS below a company without that status. Bidding an integration and database project that includes a $100,000 worth of Sun equipment? Going against these guys? Snap $4k off the top, just throw that money away or you WILL be underbid. Looking for an education contract? Good luck.

    Want to know what else you are up against? the Tax benefits to a large corporation when they give business to a "Small Business Administration-certified 8(a)" firm. Want to double up the tax breaks? Do it in a HUBzone - Historically Underutilized Business Zone. Does your company need to be in the HUBZone to qualify for the tax break? Not necessarily. Quite a few legal entanglements there, depends what state your corporation is incorporated in.

    Isn't about time we closed bullshit loopholes like these? I'm a Democrat and believe that certain inequalities exist and that in certain instances, Affirmative Action and tax incentives for areas make for good business and re-level a playing field that DOES have systematic racism in it. But laws regarding Indians are just being abused. Badly. I have a friend who is actually HALF Sioux. He moved away, but I wanted to start a business with him as an equal partner. 4 points on Cisco, Sun, and a myriad of other gear is big margin in the VAR world.
    • The guy who owns gets a deep discount from distrubution partners because his is a "native-american" owned business.

      Is that because of some government regulation or is that due to distributor's goodwill? I mean, assuming the distributors themselves grant a discount voluntarily, there's little you can do.
  • Turbocharged? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MachDelta ( 704883 )
    WTF? Why would any self respecting geek use the overly abused term "Turbocharged" to describe their project? This is something thats always gotten under my skin... whenever people claim something other than a combustion engine is "turbocharged", I just shake my head. But I let it go because the common man/woman just wouldn't get it anyways. But a geek project? Aren't we supposed to be relatively smart around here? Come on! You don't see "overclocked ovens" in stores, why the hell do we use "turbocharged" in
    • Turbo Pascal, product by Borland.

      The word "Turbo" has become part of the lexicon for describing anything fast. I don't think anyone really understands that the product is not using it's own exhaust gases to boost internal horsepower. Imagine if Slashdot did that, it would FLY. God knows there is so much exhaust gas around here.
  • Native Americans have had wireless communication for centuries. Smoke signals, anyone? No offense to my red brothers, we smokem peace pipe.
  • Angry Geeks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by broadzilla ( 786282 ) on Monday June 07, 2004 @07:15PM (#9361077)
    I am shocked to read the number of angry responses to this story. I always thought that technology was neutral in the racial game, and was quite surprised at the number of angry, racial geeks out there. I guess I should be glad that your remarks are based on ignorance rather than truth or honesty. The good news: you angry guys are not the majority.
    • Damn straight.
  • Hmm, reminds me of the story by Cory Doctorow, Liberation spectrum [].

    Interesting thing about the wireless ISPs in Eastern WA is that they are intensely competing for coverage. To the point of knocking down each others repeaters, towers, antennas, etc. Yakima County police are using the 802.11(?) spectrum to network their mobile units. Certain people were broadcasting white noise or amping up the power on their transmitters enough to bring the sherrif out . They should be getting their own spectrum within

  • I went to site and attempted to read the article, but I couldn't find any information on the actual equipment they plan on using for the wireless part.

    Looking at the pictures, they seem to not have heavy tree coverage, but if they are going to try and use something like Motorola Canopy equipment, trees could very well be an issue.

    I would also be curios as to the radius that is going to need to be covered. Do most of the people live pretty close together or is the community spread out all over the creation
  • I hope this is not connected to the insecure computer systems that have been shut down twice. IIRC, that was the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs).
  • Well - I think there should be kudos and pats on the back and I say good going.

    However I do note that 2.8 million divided by 40 works out to about $70,000 per computer so these are slightly less expensive than the toilet seats we hear about.

    The service area is the issue of course. Sparsely populated areas are expensive to service.

    Still - good going and I hope it works out!
  • I am system administrator, as well as project manager for (Glenwood Telephone Company - the smallest independant telco in Georgia - in Glenwood, Georgia (population ~~800 - average home income $16,000 a year) was awarded the Community-Oriented Connectivity Broadband Grant program by the United States Department of Agriculture / Rural Utilities Service as well. We have already successfully deployed this project to our area. The main portion of the grant funds that we were awarded 277,819 w

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court