Spread across the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, the Navajo Nation is home to up to 175,000 members of the
It's a place where many roads have never been paved, many buildings don't have a formal postal address and thousands of families remain cut off from the electrical grid. At least 60 percent of homes don't have landline telephone service even though wireless signals are often spotty or nonexistent. The 911 system often cannot track where people are calling from during an emergency. And high-speed Internet access has been almost entirely unavailable.
Data from the National Broadband Map, which is maintained by NTIA in collaboration with the
But with a
Established in 1959 to deliver basic utility services, the
Covering 15,000 square miles, the new network consists of 59 wireless towers, 43 base stations, 60 microwave links, 550 miles of fiber and 20 miles of fiber or microwave connections into buildings. BTOP paid for much of that infrastructure, as well as a leased fiber-optic connection that runs 180 miles from the edge of the Navajo Nation in
Working with wireless partner Commnet, the
Eventually, Haase says, the
Altogether, NTIA's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program has invested in more than 50 projects that are benefiting tribes by building networks in parts of Indian Country that have historically lacked adequate telecommunications infrastructure. NTIA has also funded public computer centers, digital literacy classes and one-on-one Internet training programs in a number of Native American communities.
Some of the federal awards went directly to tribes themselves, including the
The push to close the digital divide in Indian Country -- which includes some of the most remote reaches of the nation - is no easy task. National Broadband Map data show that only 54 percent of the population in Indian Country has access to basic wireline broadband speeds of 3 megabits per second downstream. That compares with 94 percent of the U.S. population as a whole. And only half of Indian Country population has access to 6-megabit wireless speeds, compared with 91 percent of the population as a whole.
But with support from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, these federally funded projects are helping to narrow the gap and ensure that tribal communities can share in the benefits and opportunities brought by the Internet.
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