A new grant from the NTIA has given a much-needed funding to build broadband networks in the Navajo Nation. At least 60% of homes don’t have landline telephone service even though wireless signals are often spotty or nonexistent. First responders often face difficulties responding to people when they call 911 because tracking where those calls come from can be close to impossible.
Data from the National Broadband Map, which is maintained by NTIA in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission, show that less than 4% of the population living in Navajo Nation territory has access to even the most basic wireline broadband speeds of 3 megabits per second downstream.
Through the grant, the Navajo Nation has spent $32 million to build out broadband through NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Money went to the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority which provides basic utility services for the Navajo. The Authority worked with wireless partner Commnet to build the network.
According to a blog post from the NTIA, the project covers 15,000 square miles. The new network consists of 59 wireless towers, 43 base stations, 60 microwave links, 550 miles of fiber and 20 miles of fiber or microwave connections into buildings. BTOP paid for much of that infrastructure, as well as a leased fiber-optic connection that runs 180 miles from the edge of the Navajo Nation in Farmington, N.M., to Albuquerque – linking the entire system to the Internet.
Downstream the Authority hopes to use the network to further its smart grid and first responder network efforts. The grant is part of a federal effort to narrow the digital divide for indian nations spread throughout the US.