Internet on Native American Reservations

Reservations have come a long way for Native American people. When I was small, there was just an unpaved road and a cattle guard between Fountain Hills Arizona and the Fort McDowell Reservation.

School kids: You live out there in the desert?

Kenzie Townsend: Sometimes.

Arizona is one of the largest states with a Native American population and land subdivisions called reservations for Native people. Needless to say, when cable and the Internet was invented 😀 those lines of communications ceased to reach Native American reservations just like the roads became unpaved going to the Fort McDowell reservation for years.

Then, I saw today the Affordable Connection Program by the Department of Health and Human Services and the FCC. I think, it goes something like this.

So. It is a government program and some Native Americans distrust our government to this day. We should not under utilize money that has been set aside to connect reservations to the internet. Hopefully increasing communication and eventually building out the infrastructure to include reservations. That’s why I chose blogging about it. 😀 It’s a 14 billion dollar program and being in business myself it is hard to justify spending so much in an area with less customers. It sounds bad because, it is bad. Reservations are subsidized often because there’s just not enough customers and the infrastructure is often not there because, there’s not enough customers. 

It’s not a circular argument it’s the same facts for both problems. There’s all this data and technology OUTSIDE the reservation but inside the Native American reservations it is or has been a data desert. This problem extends to the people and families on all reservations including my own. For at least three generations there has been that lack of internet connectivity. With everything being online there was that extra step because many did not have access to the internet at all in their homes. That is a problem in our modern time.

Does the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) fix the internet for ALL tribal lands.

NO. Simple answer it doesn’t–. Haha. You do get $30-75 monthly credit off your bill for being on tribal lands. But. If there’s no infrastructure in place.

  • Cell towers
  • underground fiber optics lines.
  • Utilities
  • Maintenance
  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Customers

It may have not solved the data desert problem between Native American reservations, it’s people, and the internet.

I do like the idea of it though, the Affordable Connectivity Program.

affordable.connectivity.program.flyer

 

From the flyer.

Why isn’t every Native American jumping at this opportunity?

I think some of it is distrust in government for sure. We grow up with it from our parents and grandparents. It’s also a complex problem

  • No infrastructure
    • no signal on Native American reservations
    • no internet provider for Native American reservations
    • Internet providers that are there are too high
  • No data device to use the internet
    • Possibly no way to pay for the device
  • The internet at home is saw as a luxury

It’s almost, like the introduction of electricity. Many people were fine without it.

 

Unfortunately, with everything online the internet is now at a point where no one is fine without it.

I did notice that some 3rd party providers like Verizon are aware of the ACP subsidy for their 4G LTE and 5G Home internet devices.

I used the house across from the Fort McDowell Recreation center. So. 5G is available.

 

Is Internet available on all Native American reservations?

Let’s look at Sells Arizona with a Native Population of 10,000.

(Sells Arizona check for 5G coverage Main Rd and Spencer Dr)

That’s the other issue for any um…distribution network on Native American reservations. The demarcation. Addresses. Fences. What’s privately held by the tribe what is not and alloted to a family. Where someone actually lives. 😀

I get it. I used to live there like that.

It is harder for a large corporation like Verizon or any other third party to be:

Verizon: So. You live there? There’s no address. No street name. A rural route number. 

Let’s see if there’s coverage there. Haha.

 

Spencer Dr did not appear so I just used the zip code and picked from a list of addresses available there.

Hm.


 

 

 

How much does a tower cost to build for data?

DGLTIA estimates it costs $250,000 for a cell tower build. Link here. It’s also probably like anything else and is about 10-25% of the initial cost in maintanence. So. $25,000 to 40,000 a year to make sure it works. Also 1/10 of an acre of land.

Zillow has land in nearby Three Points Arizona at $40,000 an acre.

That’s the other problem.

You cannot just buy Native American Reservation land. 

It has to be leased. It has to be leased from the allotted family. Which could be another hurdle for a larger corporation like Verizon.

Verizon: So you’re grandpa lives there.

Reservation kid: He lives over there my Mom lives here. 

Verizon: Where is over there?

 

I see how, no one would want to do that as far as business expansions for 10,000 Native people.

But, they did for Fort McDowell? With only 1,522 Native People? Hm.

How does that work, Verizon? 😀

The argument for community expansion into Native American reservations is that there’s not enough subscribers kind of falls apart when you look at the variance of land allotments versus Native American populations. Also. It probably costs less to build a few towers than to maintain a store.

 

It is a complex issue and the longer it takes to get resolved the more behind Native American people on reservations become. Even with, the Affordable Connectivity Plan. Fort McDowell could have negotiated better terms with Verizon as a parlay. We lease land and let towers in Fort McDowell if you build in Sells Arizona or the Four Corners. Verizon could then see this as an opportunity to gain more subscribers than 1,522 and expanding coverages into territories that were not saw previously.  Even with just 1,522 subscribers a new tower is paid for in less than five years.

 

References:

FCC ACP Fact sheet: Link

Fort McDowell Reservation: Link

Tohono O’Odham Reservation: Link

Verizon 5G Home Internet: Link

Zillow Ad in Three Points Arizona: Link

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging and drawing