We, as American Indians, have a great need. It has been here for quite some time and on many levels: economic, educational, health, entertainment and a general better way of life. This great need requires one thing, and that is free broadband access on American Indian lands. According to the Federal Communications Commission, more than 90 percent of American Indians lack high-speed internet access. The internet is and continues to be the economy of the future—one that supports new and better jobs, and will enhance American Indians global competitiveness. We must expand the availability and adoption of broadband access in American Indian lands.
In the near-term, investments in broadband infrastructure helps create jobs and business growth by supporting the installation and upgrade of fiber-optic networks, wireless towers and other high-tech components. Public computer centers provide much-needed training and broadband for those without access to this empowering technology in their homes. Sustainable broadband adoption efforts help to educate American Indian populations about the benefits of broadband and enable them to become proficient in computer-related skills. In the longer-term, expanding broadband access and adoption facilitates economic growth and innovation, especially for small businesses; enhances health care delivery; improves public safety; and lays a foundation for long-term economic development in American Indian communities throughout the United States.
Broadband reduces geographic barriers and the costs of doing business. The Internet offers the opportunity for anyone with a connection and an innovative idea to create and grow a business. Online retail sales in the United States totaled an estimated $169 billion in 2010 alone. Can you imagine Indian Country with just one percent of that? It is high time that American Indian governments supply free broadband to its members and even non-members. I always hear and read much talk about economic development and helping the people, from American Indian governments, yet right in front of us, is a real key, that everyone, can use to gain economic subsistence, if not anything else.
This huge digital exclusion of the American Indians is in itself a form of genocide on many fronts and we have no one to blame but our leaders, chairpersons, representatives and government. What are they scared of? That we American Indians might empower ourselves economically, academically, and worse, may not even have need them anymore. Imagine that, our collective minds attached together over vast distances, looking out for ourselves, like modern smoke signals. Broadband Now!
Nathan Lefthand is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation