OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – A pair of Bay Area Jefferson Award winners have received a national honor for their roles in bridging the digital divide on tribal lands.

Mariel Triggs and Martin Casado have connected nearly two million people to spectrum on Native American tribal lands through their nonprofit, MuralNet in Oakland.

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The pair is opening doors to opportunities like virtual school and online doctor’s visits for tribes in isolated rural areas.

For their work, Triggs received the surprise announcement over Zoom from Multiplying Good, the nonprofit behind the Jefferson Awards.

The pair had won a national Jefferson Award.

“Whoa! That’s amazing!” Triggs exclaimed.

Triggs and Casado won a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Service benefitting local communities.

Jefferson Award winners Martin Casado (left) and Mariel Triggs, winners of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Service. (CBS)

Jefferson Award winners Martin Casado (left) and Mariel Triggs, winners of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Service. (CBS)

“It was a shock to the system, and it caused me to reflect.” Casado said later in an interview with Triggs. “Yeah, I’m super excited about the work that we’re doing, and I’m re-energized and re-focused. It’s a big deal.”

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What MuralNet co-founder Casado and CEO Triggs are doing is a big deal. They’re helping tribal nations build and operate their own reliable broadband networks for one-tenth the cost of a traditional build.

“Almost all of our builds use existing infrastructure. So I don’t have to build a tower. I just have to get something high enough, so I’m talking about rooftops, existing towers,” Triggs told KPIX 5.

Triggs herself climbs the towers to install the hardware.

In addition, MuralNet’s led the way in changing FCC policy to give tribal lands priority to claim free bandwidth reserved for education.

They’ve laid the legal groundwork, so now hundreds of tribal lands are lining up to build their own high-speed internet networks.

“So now, the future is actually connecting the tribes. So you’ll find us out on rooftops, on water towers, in the wild connecting tribes. That’s the future,” Casado said.

They hope to have 350 networks within the next five years on tribal lands.

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For winning a national Jefferson Award for bridging the digital divide through MuralNet, KPIX 5 celebrates Martin Casado and Mariel Triggs.