Navajo Nation wired

For more than 200,000 Navajo citizens, many who don't have TVs or telephones,

the Information Age has arrived.

The Navajo Nation's 110 chapter houses, which serve as the local government

entities and often community centers, have been connected through a state-of-the-art

wireless Internet system. The satellite system was also given to the Havasupai

Tribe and the First Mesa Hopi Police Department.

"This is extremely new for a lot of people," said Kyril Calsoyas, principal

of the Seba Dalkai Boarding School. "The average American may have an idea

about computers and the Internet. But the average Navajo person has no idea."

Through a local nonprofit agency — Developing Innovations in Navajo

Education, or DINE Inc. — Calsoyas helped obtain a $475,000 U.S. Commerce

Department grant to jump-start the project, which is called the Navajo National

Virtual Alliance. Originally, it was only going to connect five chapters,

but the technology considered was cost-prohibitive, he said.

With the help of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz., and

StarBand Communications, a McLean, Va.-based high-speed satellite Internet

service provider, each chapter house was outfitted with a satellite antenna

and a personal computer equipped with a card to send and receive satellite

signals.

All chapter houses, which are scattered over 25,000 miles in Arizona,

New Mexico and Utah, also will get free, around-the-clock Internet service

for the next three years.

According to spokeswoman Sandy Colony, StarBand donated the equipment

and significantly subsidized the installation costs and Internet service.

Calsoyas said about $250,000 of the grant has been used so far.

The 500-member Havasupai Tribe, whose members live at the bottom of

the Grand Canyon on a 500-acre reservation, and Hopi Police Department were

not included in the grant, Colony said. Their equipment, installation and

Internet services were subsidized.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating an additional two

computers for each chapter house site and is providing technology training.

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