Navajo Nation wired
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Sep 22, 2000
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
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.