Tribal countries to get better internet access

OKLAHOMA CITY — Native American communities are lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to broadband connectivity. Now, with the Affordable Connectivity Program, tribal lands will receive funding for better Internet access.

“So many of our indigenous communities are isolated,” said Toni Tsatoke, professor of Indigenous Studies. “And so people live in their separate communities. often in rural communities so they don’t have the same resources as others living in larger urban areas.”

Studies show that Native Americans living in reservations or other tribes do not have access to affordable high-speed Internet services.

“The first problem is really an opportunity,” said Cliff Agee, the president of telecommunications for Chickasaw Nation. “But the problem is people in rural America, rural Oklahoma, rural Chickasaw, they really don’t understand.”

According to the American Indian Policy Institute, 18% of tribal reservation residents do not have internet access, while 33% rely on smartphones for internet service.

But even where broadband is available, cost can be a barrier.

“If they see that they have affordable broadband in these areas, they can set up a business and promote their product online from their home in a community of 2,000 people,” Agee said. “It’s critical.”

This is why Congress passed the Affordable Connectivity Act; it is part of the $1 trillion infrastructure package. $14.2 billion will go toward providing broadband internet services to rural areas, including tribal lands.

Right now people in those areas can pay $100 or more per month, this will turn that to $30 per month, and provide services in areas that didn’t before.

“A lot of people may think that many of these problems have been solved and are a thing of the past,” Tsatoke said. .”

Just connecting these areas with broadband services can help with multiple problems for Native American communities. Some things it can help are things like access to telecare, teaching their native language, and cases of missing and murdered indigenous people.

“That was a critical thing: by using social media networks, people are creating groups and things like that for awareness, but also just to be part of that larger community,” Tsatoke said. “We’re not just individuals living here and living our best. We’re part of a larger community and stay connected that way.”

Now tribes across the country are applying for these grants and hoping that all of this will improve their vital operations.

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