Basic Broadband for “Homes” on Tribal Lands

One Rural Telco’s Uphill Battle to Provide Basic Broadband Services to Tribal Communities in Need

“The sprawling reservation, which touches parts of rural Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, is by any measure one of the poorest places in America. Studies have found more than 30,000 families need new homes to live by modern standards.”

Sacred Wind Communications was founded on the premise of “serving the unserved,” given the technological void that envelopes so many tribal communities in New Mexico. While the company continues to expand its broadband deployment initiatives among tribal communities in New Mexico, it still faces an uphill battle when trying to balance high infrastructure buildout costs with high consumer demand, particularly in remote Navajo communities. The following points specifically elucidate how difficult it is for a small, rural telco whose mission is to serve tribal communities that want and need broadband services, but still do not have basic access:

  1. Operating costs and infrastructure deployment costs are much higher on remote tribal lands than those in other rural and urban areas.
  2. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), using U.S. Census Bureau data and its own Form 477 data, designating a carrier’s served households, misses many unserved tribal homes in its calculation of broadband support needed by the carrier.
  3. A major part of the undercounting of tribal homes is the failure to recognize certain structures as domiciles, inhabitable by Western standards.

Read the rest at the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society

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