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Bridging Indian Country’s Digital Divide Through a Regional Focus

SPARKS, NEVADA - There are approximately 8,000 middle miles of fiber missing that could connect Indian Country. The Broadband and Radio Opportunities: Bridging the Digital Divide session at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Mid-Year Conference held in Sparks, Nevada June 24 – 27, 2019, included a presentation on a mapping project that plotted fiber in the U.S. and reinforced the already known fact that tribal nations are not connected. This means tribal communities and people without access to broadband also have no access to health care, research capabilities, education, and other critical services provided online.

Photo from Arcadian Infracom’s website

Arcadian Infracom, a broadband fiber infrastructure company, plans to lay a three-way fiber route connecting Salt Lake City to Phoenix and Phoenix to Denver by way of the Navajo Nation. Through a right of way partnership, the Navajo Nation will get fiber and participate in revenue sharing.

Matthew Rantanen co-chair of the NCAI’s Technology & Telecommunications subcommittee and session panelist stated that, “Broadband is a utility. A human right.”

According to the panelists, as more right of way partnerships are established with grant funding from the ReConnect Fund, broadband access with a focus on region instead of just a focus on a tribe becomes possible and this in turn, increases broadband penetration across Indian Country.

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