Tribal Communities Create Own Broadband Networks

Access to quality internet connectivity in many tribal and rural communities lags far behind other regions.

1 minute read

January 18, 2024, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial view of small tribal community of Upper Moenkopi on Navajo nation.

Upper Moenkopi Village in Navajo Nation. | Luc Novovitch/Danita Delimont / Adobe Stock

Native nations, often underserved by telecommunications services, are banding together to build broadband networks. Madyson Fitzgerald explains in Stateline, noting that “In 2020, more than 18% of people living on tribal lands didn’t have access to broadband technology, compared with about 4% of people living in non-tribal areas, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.”

In Arizona, Hopi Telecommunications, which serves Hopi and Navajo communities with traditional internet, is now building a fiber optic network to bring high-speed internet to homes.

Federal and state government programs are helping fund broadband initiatives, too. “One of the measures in California’s Digital Equity Bill of Rights, a first-of-its-kind bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in October, outlines how the state should ensure that all Californians have equal access to broadband.” The Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes broadband service for households, but that program is in jeopardy unless it secures additional funding.

Other challenges for tribal broadband providers include maintaining sufficient staff and meeting high operational expenses in far-flung rural areas.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024 in Stateline

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