Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - Ironically, during the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing called "Internet Infrastructure in Native Communities: Equal Access to E-Commerce, Jobs and the Global Marketplace" yesterday, the webcast being fed via the internet failed for almost an hour.
At mid-sentence, one panelist's image froze during the webcast. Moments later, the screen was black. About twenty minutes later, the picture came back, but there was no sound.
Such is the inconsistencies in Indian Country with communication. Sadly, communications problems involve more than technically problems of the US Senate equipment.
"The lack of all communications in Indian Country is alarming. Our most recent reliable census data indicates that over 70 years of development and expansion of the telecommunications industry has resulted in only 67.9 percent of residents of Tribal lands enjoying basic telephone service," testified Geoffrey Blackwell, Chief, Office of Native Affairs and Policy, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission.
"The statistics for broadband penetration are even more troubling - less than 10 percent of residents of Native Nations have access to the lifeblood of our 21st century economy, educational opportunities, health care, and public safety," he continued.
Several panelists testified that the internet, when available in Indian Country, has had positive effects, such as increased number of jobs. But, the limitations of the internet in Indian Country are financial stumbling blocks for tribes as they want to grow their tribal economies.
"Our economic growth is now constrained by the lack of Internet capacity in our community. Also our access costs are about 50 percent more than in nearby urban areas where competition is plentiful," testified Lance Morgan, president and chief executive officer of Ho-Chunk, Inc., base in Winnebago, Nebraska. "Strangely our access is also more expensive than comparable non-Indian rural communities from our area."
"The Commission has said on many occasions that broadband is indispensable infrastructure for economic growth and job creation, and nowhere is that need more acutely felt than on Tribal lands. The lack of robust broadband services - and, in fact, even basic communications services - contributes to the challenges Native Nations face in building strong economies with diverse businesses and development projects," testified Blackwell.
posted October 7, 2011 7:10 am edt
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