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A Look Towards the Future: What Toptana Means for the Quinault Community

A Look Towards the Future: What Toptana Means for the Quinault Community

Toptana Technologies launched in 2021 and as an enterprise fully owned by the members of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) of Washington State. For the QIN people, culture is the bedrock of our community. As such, bettering the lives of individuals in the community and establishing new paths for the tribe’s economic future has been the mission of QIN leadership since the beginning. It is for this reason that QIN actively seeks out new business opportunities that can sustainably fuel the community’s long-term prosperity.

Tyson Johnston

Quick Take:

  • Toptana Technologies will bring transformative improvements to the quality of life for the people of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) and other rural communities in the Pacific Northwest
  • Toptana will offer access to the infrastructure that will enable affordable, high-speed internet access, previously unavailable for tens of thousands of underserved people, which will help close the digital divide that has negatively impacted people in nearly every aspect of their lives
  • The revenue generated by Toptana will also be reinvested into the community, further improving quality of life and creating the mechanism for a self-sustaining economy that will help QIN for generations to come

Toptana Technologies was launched in 2021 as an enterprise fully owned by the members of the Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) of Washington State. For the QIN people, culture is the bedrock of our community. As such, bettering the lives of individuals in the community and establishing new paths for the tribe’s economic future has been the mission of QIN leadership since the beginning. It is for this reason that QIN actively seeks out new business opportunities that can sustainably fuel the community’s long-term prosperity.

QIN leadership and the members of our community have launched and operated many successful businesses in hospitality, retail, and manufacturing in the last several decades. Each venture has been a new opportunity for members of our tribe to gain new capabilities, master new skills, and diversify the tribe’s revenue streams while gaining experience in a new industry. That enterprising attitude is the engine behind QIN’s goals of creating a strong, self-sustaining economy. Toptana Technologies is the next part of the tribe’s evolution, an integral part of that goal of doing good for the community that goes back centuries.

Toptana will be the tribe’s most impactful business venture yet. The big picture benefits that Toptana will create are two-fold but include many ancillary and ripple-effect advantages that will directly or indirectly affect nearly every aspect of tribal life. 

To date, QIN and many other communities in  the surrounding areas have painstakingly cobbled together a patchwork of internet solutions in the name of offering at least a bare minimum of access to their communities. Approximately one-third of our QIN community lacks internet access of any kind. Those that do have internet access subsist on slow, unreliable solutions that top out at approximately 10Mbps.

These speeds are well below the minimum standards set by the FCC of 25Mbps and even further below what many people in developed areas are accustomed to. The result has been an ongoing digital isolation that has grown frustratingly worse as the rest of the world becomes increasingly dependent on digital access and the ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT).

“Broadband is as essential to any community as clean water or reliable electricity, and needs to be treated that way,” -Henning Schulzrinne, computer science professor at Columbia Engineering and former Chief Technology Officer with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission 

During the pandemic, people living in underserved communities, such as those of us QIN citizens living in and around the reservation, came to realize that a lack of digital access went far beyond being just an ongoing frustration. As the rest of the world adapted to home-based life of Zoom calls, telehealth visits, online school, and web-based grocery shopping, people in remote areas with subpar or nonexistent internet access saw the digital divide widen exponentially. Lacking internet access suddenly meant a wide ranging series of dangers that no one had predicted. In the rural areas of Grays Harbor County, Washington, for the roughly 80 percent of people with either substandard or zero internet, including those on the QIN reservation, the digital divide became a catastrophe of isolation nearly overnight, impacting school, healthcare, work, communication, and the ability to access groceries and other daily necessities.

The pandemic made it clear to people in these rural areas that the patchwork of solutions for substandard internet was no longer tenable. Something drastic needed to be done to bring digital equality. Fiber would be the way forward for people in these areas to finally have access to what our neighbors in developed areas had benefited from for years: online learning, job training, business opportunities, smart home technology, quality healthcare and diagnostics, and responsive emergency services. These are the essential tools and services that Toptana Technologies will help enable.

Transformative Impact

The affordable connectivity that Toptana’s fiber internet terrestrial backhaul network will provide will transform economies on QIN territory and elsewhere.

Businesses will finally have access to software and tools for efficiency. These time-saving solutions will optimize billing, expense tracking, procurement, marketing, and operations. Quinault artisans will be able to launch e-commerce shops and use platforms like Etsy to share their art and our culture with others. With a simple broadband connection, rural businesses will be able to connect to millions of potential customers with just a few clicks without the need to maintain a physical store. Existing QIN businesses, such as the casino and fishery, will be able to promote themselves to new potential customers through online ads and recruit staff through online job boards. Fisheries in particular, would have access to new internet-based tools that could measure water parameters, such as temperature, pH, and oxygen saturation – data which could be used for better, more productive, more sustainable fishing.

At home, “smart” appliances and security gadgets will now be an option. Advanced smoke detectors, home security systems, flood sensors, and entertainment and communication devices will make life at home easier, more energy efficient, and safer, giving peace of mind to QIN elders and those in our community living with limited mobility. For working age people, a wider range of jobs will be available stemming from the newfound flexibility to work from home and additional skills training opportunities, opportunities many indigenous people have not previously had available. Video calls will allow people to stay in touch with friends and family when separated – even for QIN fishermen out at sea. 

Emergency response services will be able to render help more quickly and rapidly coordinate efforts with other emergency services. Safety workers could communicate with each other in urgent situations to mitigate dangers and combine their efforts. Emergency services will become more effective, keeping more people safe and healthy.

Healthcare services that today are only available by hours’-long drives to nearby cities will be available locally. Facilities will be more connected, meaning faster lab results and diagnostics. Doctors and nurses will be able to consult other resources and collaborate with specialists in other hospitals to get the best possible patient outcomes, and people will have on-demand access to telehealth services from home or work, giving them the ability to receive treatment whenever they need it. Medical records will be easily accessible, and appointments can be made online. 

In the event of a power outage, the presence of Toptana’s cable landing station (CLS) on QIN territory will also prioritize the entire area for power restoration, allowing the extended community to benefit from our proximity to a mission-critical facility. Keeping the CLS and surrounding port safe would also potentially mean the installation of a sensor in the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which would measure seismic activity while providing advanced warning for the region during natural disasters. Subsea cables are also capable of measuring other vital data, including water temperature and the activity of ships and wildlife. 

The Quinault goal of cultural preservation will also be more easily attainable. Our tribe’s language, history, stories, food, art, and its way of life are all priceless but vulnerable artifacts. Internet access will allow our tribe to create invaluable backups – photos, recordings, and detailed catalogs – for many of these precious items and bring peace of mind that the most cherished symbols of Quinault culture will be safely preserved for future generations. Our tribe will also be able to more easily share its rich culture and heritage with others. This digital backing up and distribution is only something that can be done through the use of reliable, high-speed internet. Without it, the task of preserving and putting together a cohesive library of our Quinault cultural symbols would be nearly impossible – a risk that grows over time, as precious artifacts can deteriorate as they age.

Perhaps one of the most meaningful improvements the availability of  fiber internet will provide in the region will be in education. Home-schooled students will be able to benefit from the best available online learning resources. Teachers will be able to offer engaging, interesting materials to inspire students and supplement their in-person lessons. Children with learning disabilities or developmental issues will have access to resources to help them thrive. Sick kids will be able to stay connected to their schoolwork and friends. Children with interests not offered at school can explore unique science, music, and art projects, as well as other creative pursuits, through online learning materials. STEAM programs will develop students’ talents and give them skills and knowledge that will serve them as adults. These impacts will help our tribe thrive for generations.

A New Revenue Stream to Support a New Future

As a second but highly impactful benefit, Toptana will serve as a new revenue stream for QIN and diversify our tribe’s portfolio of businesses. This will provide funding to realize the full long-term benefits of becoming part of the digital community. Funding would go directly towards improved education programs, expanded healthcare facilities, job training, capital improvements in infrastructure, new businesses, and fully equipped emergency response services. These strategic investments will then help these businesses and organizations grow and prosper over time. In essence, all of the newly expanded services and opportunities that Toptana’s fiber connectivity will provide will also be funded by the revenue the business generates. This symbiotic relationship is the foundation of how Toptana will enable a sustainable economy for QIN.

The power of technology can be an excellent catalyst for positive change, giving people worldwide access to invaluable resources and supporting business, economic, social, and educational development. This is the power and promise behind Toptana Technologies – connecting communities while doing good, not only for our immediate  QIN community and neighboring tribes but also all over the world. It will solve a complex problem that is not unique to the Quinault people – a problem faced by other indigenous nations, rural communities, and underserved people elsewhere. For these communities, Toptana will serve as a real-life example of how complex problems can be tackled and recast as opportunities. For the Quinault people, it will be a proud reflection of their tribe’s tradition of balancing ingenuity and stewardship with a venture that will continue to support the community for seven generations to come.

Final Thoughts:

  • Toptana Technologies, as a QIN-owned business, will serve our community in two impactful ways: by offering the affordable connectivity needed to close the area’s digital divide and by generating the revenue that will fuel the self-sustaining economy that has always been our tribe’s solemn mission
  • Toptana will also serve as an example of how technology can be a catalyst for positive change and inspire other communities to explore ways of turning challenges into opportunities

Want to learn more about how Toptana will help transform the future of tech? Get in touch. 


About Toptana Technologies 

Toptana is driven by a vision of a truly connected world. We’re an indigenous-owned internet infrastructure and technology company focused on bringing connectivity to unserved and underserved communities. Our mission is to connect the digitally disconnected so that all people can fully participate in the digital economy. 

Our Washington State cable landing station offers subsea transpacific connectivity from the U.S. to Asia-Pacific markets. The backhaul network offers terrestrial connectivity along the I-5 corridor to Seattle, WA and Hillsboro, OR. We offer businesses the opportunity to get their traffic where it needs to go while protecting our precious resources and improving the lives of those in need.