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Remote Indian reservation near the Grand Canyon gets broadband boost

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Rural Americans are often overlooked in terms of technological innovations. They will be among the last to receive faster 5G mobile phone cover, even though it is now available in the major cities. In some rural areas, the acquiring of an HD tv signal is almost impossible.

But still, for the indians who live in remote tribal communities, even the connect of high-speed Internet access is a struggle, trust in place of the archaic dial-up connections.

A study of the American Indian Policy Institute found that about a third of all Native Americans lack access to broadband. A study by the u.s. Government Accountability Office disputes that claim, suggesting that access in the tribal areas is much worse than that.

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Ophelia Watahomigie-Corliss represents the Havasupai tribe near the Grand Canyon, one of the smallest rural communities in the US. She tells Fox News the biggest challenge is to do with children receive an education, which is difficult without broadband.

The tribal store (left) and post office (right).
(MuralNet)

“[Schools] are only going to the eighth grade and the only option for the high school is to go out of the canyon to earn their degree [due to a lack of the Internet],” said Watahomigie-Corliss.

That may change now that the FCC has ruled that some of the spectrum, known as Educational Broadband service, or EBS, will be dedicated specifically to the Havasupai tribe. The FCC is expected to make a general statement about the spectrum allocation for all tribal areas of the following month.

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Even then there is a problem with the installation of broadband equipment.

Top view of the mesa overlooking the village.
(MuralNet)

Martin Casado, a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, is also the founder of the non-profit company MuralNet, that will help bring broadband to tribal lands. He tells Fox News that the problem is greed. Telecom companies refuse to install the base stations and backhaul locations necessary to work in rural communities.

“Telecom will not do, unless you have enough of a population,” he says. “And they don’t know how to make it financially solvent. In Africa, you might not have the basics like electricity, but in the United States we have the infrastructure all in place to make this happen.”

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Casado says MuralNet makes use of low-cost networking equipment that is then re-programmed with the software. The install to help with making broadband access more affordable and feasible for rural areas. The company piggybacks on the EBS statements to provide broadband to tribal residents.

Niles Radio Communications, the placing of an antenna and base station on the Long Mesa tower overlooking Supai, AZ. (MuralNet)

Watahomigie-Corliss says that there is yet another problem. Some initiatives, such as an online school and telemedicine, depending on high-speed Internet. She is grateful that the spectrum is now allocated, but the process of the roll-out of services based on broadband will take time.

Gary Bolton, a spokesman for the networking company ADTRAN, tells Fox News that there are additional complications. In the rural areas, the terrain, such as mountains or remote agricultural land — is more complex and requires more technical planning. “Approximately 19 million Americans are on the losing side of the digital divide,” he says.

The community is located on the canyon floor. (MuralNet)

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MuralNet Founder Brian Shih help Niles Radio Communications, such as installation of equipment on the Long Mesa Tower. (MuralNet)

In the end, it is not always easy to gain access to the technology and it is not always lucrative for the telecom, but for the indigenous communities in remote areas, it is a necessity.

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