The relentless banging noise of a Step by Step switch in a small, rural central office pounds away in my head some 13 years later. The irony that I was in this central office to terminate an advanced state-of-the-art, video fiber network was not lost on me. This central office was a reflection of the overall project that saw us bringing fiber to the large curb for video services, while an existing wireless BETRs system barely served as the voice transport.
Fast-forward to the present day and the Navajo Nation still faces challenges in both communications as well as other utilities. According to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority web site, some 18,000 families are without electricity. With an area larger than 10 of the 50 states of America, the Navajo Nation still presents unique challenges to providing communications services.
The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority recently won a $32.1 million grant from the NTIA as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This is being matched with a $11.3M from NTUA and $2.2M from Commnet Wireless. This will provide broadband access to 15,120 square miles of the Navajo Nation’s 27,000 square miles. The wireless service will cover 30,000 households and mid-mile backbone to another 49 communities.
Monroe Keedo, Divisional Manager for IT for the NTUA, explains how some of the grant money will be used for notebooks with wireless capability to allow students to extend their learning while on the school bus; bus rides that can sometimes take a couple of hours. He also explains that, by extending the reach of health-care professionals, the telecommunications network they are building will improve health care across the Navajo Nation.