Navajo Nation to Get High-Speed Internet

clay

The Navajo Nation will be the beneficiary of $32 million in federal stimulus money for a high-speed Internet network that will cover 15,000 square miles in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The boost hopes to help Navajo residents gain access to high-tech jobs and training which could help eradicate crushing unemployment--jobless rates hover at about 40% on the reservation. Bringing Internet access could also aid in education and keep Navajo youth from leaving the reservation in hopes of better employment opportunities. The system will reach over 30,000 homes and businesses in one of the least infrastructurally developed parts of the country; remarkably, this is a place where 60% of homes don't even have basic telephone service.

Last year, a group from PopTech also focused their attention on the technology divide in the Navajo Nation when testing their solar-powered FLAP bag. As Cordelia Newlin de Rojas wrote in a post for FastCompany.com, the team members noted that most residents, like Clay Bigman, above, lack not only phone service, but also are without power or running water: "With extremely limited economic opportunities, people--particularly elders--continue to live on their families' lands, grazing sheep and horses in order to survive. Yet that choice is a critical one, because remaining on their properties in sparsely populated areas means they forgo access to electricity or indoor plumbing." Perhaps before we introduce Google to the Navajo we should focus on making sure they have a place to plug in their computers.

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5 Comments

  • Angele

    Of course you want the Navajo's to have electricity so you can send mindcontrol to them as you have everyone else. REJECT THE OFFER NAVAJO PEOPLE

  • Abby Jacobs

    What the heck Fast Company? Did you have a whole day to research this article? "Most are without power or running water"? The last comprehensive study performed in connection with the EPA, (released 7/8/09) stated that just over 30% of the Navajo Nation didn't have access to piped water. The 2000 census does state that 60% didn't have phone service, but in the last decade, Cellular One and AT&T have stepped up and reduced the 'no phone service at all' number to easily under 40%. Both figures are less than "most" last I checked.

    But that's not actually the problem I have here. My problem is the idea that this magic internet is going to bring jobs. First off, the elderly people highlighted wouldn't take these imaginary jobs if they WERE there. The reservation is spread out--would your 60-80+ year old mom or dad leave the place they lived, in many cases their whole lives, to go take some low-level job miles away? Secondly, schools in Chinle, AZ and Kayenta, AZ (both towns have a population under 6000) had T1 LINES installed between 1998 and 2000. Job growth in both places has fluctuated between stable and NEGATIVE since then. Internet has nothing to do with jobs, that's complete nonsense. Ask any person who has managed to open a business on the Navajo Reservation and they'll tell you it took YEARS. And it's far easier to find those who tried and gave up. Why? The Navajo Nation Tribal Government wants more than ever to be a sovereign nation and staunchly refuses to encourage any development. Don't think there haven't been loads of people from Phoenix, Los Angeles, and even WITHIN the community who haven't thought about opening businesses and bringing jobs. They have been met with years and years of bureaucratic delays and flat out refusals for decades. It's not the lack of internet.