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Report Calls State Of Broadband Access For Native Americans ‘Deplorable’

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2009 - The Native American population is one of the most disconnected groups in the country, according to a study released Thursday on broadband penetration.

The Native Public Media and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative suggest that the Federal Communications Commission create a Tribal Broadband Plan within the national broadband plan that it is currently drafting.

“Native Americans are among the last citizens to gain access to the Internet, with access to broadband often unavailable or overly expensive in Native communities,” according to the research.

“Beyond that challenge, there is a fundamental lack of qualitative or quantitative empirical research on Native American Internet use, adoption, and access, stifling the Native voice in broadband and media policy,” the report found.

The research provides recommendations on policies that could help bridge the Native American digital divide. “This report is timely and catapults the needs of Native Americans into the national policy making process as the FCC develops a data focused and comprehensive National Broadband Plan,” said Loris Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media, in a statement.

The researchers found Native Americans who did have access to new technologies to be very tech savvy.

The report was based on a survey conducted over a one year period, from October 2008 to November 2009, of over 120 tribes who lived across 28 states.

The Native Public Media and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative researchers compared their report findings to the recent Pew Internet and American Life Project Spring Tracking Survey from 2008.

The New America survey results show that 90 percent of the Native Americans surveyed used the internet daily while the Pew Survey showed that 54 percent of the overall public used the internet daily.

But it is in connectivity to the Internet that the general public truly towers over the native population, the New America report found.

The majority of the native population on broadband use DSL, while only a small number had access to cable – and almost no access to higher-speed broadband. The general public, by contrast, connects via cable access and via high-speed DSL.

The majority of Native Americans who did have connections were purchasing broadband services from non-major telecom companies. The cost for access was also much higher for Native Americans: 58 percent paid between $21 and $60, while the Pew survey had the majority of American’s paying between $21 and $40.

The Native Public Media and the New America Foundation team was not the first to find that broadband services have not been reaching Native American communities. The Government Accountability Office wrote in 2006 that the penetration rate for broadband access in the Native American communities was less than 10 percent.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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