Navajo Higher Education and Internet Providers Launch Non-profit Alliance
A nonprofit, the Alliance for Navajo Broadband, has been created and registered in the State of New Mexico. The Alliance is dedicated to improving broadband access, affordability, and choice for the Navajo people. Founding members include Diné College, Navajo Technical University, Frontier Communications, Smith Bagley, Inc. dba CellularOne and Sacred Wind Communications.
The Navajo universities joined with the Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) on the Navajo Reservation to advocate for a diversity of Internet Providers and to create a greater level of access and performance for the Navajo people and businesses. With the current mindset for distributing grants and the long Right-of-Way approval process, the need for advocacy became clear and evident. The Alliance has become a voice for a paradigm shift to create a more open environment for more long lasting solutions. Without a change, it will be years before the Navajo people and their communities begin to receive the benefit of these grant opportunities.
Small tribes with less land mass have become somewhat of their own services providers by distributing internet services through outsourcing their broadband assets for a service provider to operate on their behalf. With the 27,000 square mile Navajo Reservation covering three states spanning twelve counties, the situation is much more complex and requires a multi-faceted solution. A monopoly would create another backlog of services that would stonewall economic growth and stifle the Navajo home customer and businesses. Competition provides Navajo consumers the best option. Broadband services are best provided in a competitive market where customers get the right to choose which in turn provides lower cost.
The ETC service providers want to continue their long-standing partnerships with the Navajo Nation over decades and they provide their customers with subsidies they are entitled to use. The Alliance supports better competitive options so people have a choice based on their own needs. Together with the tribal institutions, they can educate the Navajo leadership and entities such as Chapters, Tribal Departments, tribal enterprises and entities on what they can do to make effective changes. University research would also create a ‘proving ground’ for up-and-coming technologies.
The Alliance objectives are to increase capacity and improve performance for the best Internet reliability, to extend coverage to unserved and underserved areas for accessibility in ways that are effective, to promote greater broadband competition, to increase sustainable affordability and to enhance the network diversity for redundancy, resiliency and extendibility.
The Alliance is designed to also take in a general membership. These members will be able to provide their input, ideas and solutions about what is best to serve the Navajo Nation. The Alliance hopes to be a think tank for this growing and much needed sector across Navajo Nation.