A few months ago, the Internet Society Foundation reached out to all of the Internet Society chapters, seeking applications for the Beyond the Net Grant. We reached out to our members about this opportunity and our board went out into the community seeking project proposals. After a competitive process, we chose one focused on increasing access to high speed internet to 9,000+ Native American community members in southern California.
Why this project?
Currently, 13 tribal nations in southern California (in and around east San Diego County) lack high-quality internet access. Over 9,000 people living in 2,200 tribal homes have internet access that does not match their family’s needs during COVID-19. Their current internet backbone to the fiber is delivered via microwave from a tower 10 km away at 1.2 Gbps, which could just about serve families’ pre-COVID-19 needs and does not support the internet connectivity needs of parents trying to work from home while students study online. In 2018, Politico called Native Americans living on tribal land “the least connected people in America.”
It has been a struggle over the years to get access on tribal land to fiber, as there isn’t any to speak of in Indian Country. The land around the 13 tribal nations we are seeking to support is rocky, mountainous, and very difficult to lay fiber in. Therefore, this technology provides an excellent alternative.
Selected reading on how the digital divide impacts tribal communities:
- “The Digital Divide,” from Arizona State University’s American Indian Policy Institute
- “Native Americans On Tribal Land Are ‘The Least Connected’ To High-Speed Internet,” National Public Radio
- “BROADBAND INTERNET: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands,” US Office on Government Accountability (GAO)
Those tribes that would benefit are working together through the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (SCTCA) is a multi-service non-profit corporation established in 1972. Member tribes are: Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians, Campo Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians, Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians, La Posta Band of Mission Indian, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians, Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians, Pala Band of Mission Indians, Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians, Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians.
How can I get involved?
95% of the grant is going to paying for the cutting edge technology to move the fiber capacity of their 10Gig Circuit wirelessly 7.2 miles further into the network with $1000 for equipment to hook it into their existing network, and $500 to cover travel expenses for a board member to go and inspect to make sure the installation happened and works well. Some ways you can get involved:
- Sign-up for updates in our monthly newsletter — every month, we’ll be introducing another few of the tribes who are benefitting from this project to our members. Note: About a year ago the Internet Society changed the email provider for chapters and updated how it worked to comply with the GDPR which meant a lot of our members got an opt-in email. If you suddenly stopped getting our updates and want to get them again, just click the link above and re-subscribe.
- Learn about the other Beyond the Net grantees: We’re just one of 17 projects from all over the world that received this $30,000 grant and it’s well-worth a few minutes learning about the others here.
Your elected board members are really excited for this chance to help get more people online in our home state and would love your feedback. Have any questions? Leave a comment here!