This past August, the Open Technology Institute (OTI) (a program of New America) released its 2020 Cost of Connectivity Report, which showed that a combination of regulatory and oversight choices combined with market forces results in Internet access that for most Americans is slower, less reliable, and more expensive than elsewhere in the world.
In October, the OTI followed up that report with one focused on the Navajo Nation. It argues that “altogether, the federal government’s failure to connect people on tribal lands deprives entire tribes of opportunities for employment, healthcare, education, and economic growth in both the short and long-term.”
The Navajo Nation is divided into 109 political subdivisions (called chapters) by geography across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The OTI report finds that just four of those chapters have access speeds which meet the FCC’s standard for basic broadband (25/3Mbps (Megabits per second)), and that many in the community remain stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Claire Park, author of the study, pulled data from the Navajo Nation Woven Integrated Data Project and combined it with FCC data and state broadband maps from March to July 2020, cross checking a sample of addresses with existing residential Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in those areas. It uses a total of 450 offered plans in its data set.
The report succinctly argues that broadband remains just one among the litany of struggles that those living on tribal lands face:
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic exposes the deeply unjust policies behind stark inequities in certain communities. In the case of tribal nations, the federal government’s lack of support during the pandemic is another chapter in a brutal history of injustice that leaves tribes particularly vulnerable to this disease. Generations of federal policies undermining Indigenous wealth, power, and sovereignty have left many Native people without access to basic infrastructure, including food, running water, safe and adequate housing, telecommunications service, and healthcare.
In this context it offers some startling...Read more