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United States Networking

Datacenter Gives Internet To 70 Percent of Navajo Nation 162

Nerval's Lobster writes "The Navajo Nation cut the ribbon August 13 on an $8 million data center that has been under debate and development since 2000, when then-President Bill Clinton expressed shock that a 13-year-old Navajo girl who just won a new laptop couldn't connect to the Internet. At the time that girl won the laptop in a school contest, the Navajo Nation--a 27,425 square-mile region that covers portions of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico--had barely any IT infrastructure. The incident helped drive debate among leaders of the Navajo Nation, many of whom said they believed adding telecommunications and computing facilities were secondary to other concerns for the chronically poverty stricken region. The 50,000-square-foot facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico includes 25,000-sq.-ft. of datacenter and an equal space for computer training and business incubation, according to Nova Corp., an IT services company owned by Navajo Nation and formed in 2004 to execute an IT plan to create the "Digital Navajo Nation" (PDF). The drive to get it built also helped push development of a $46 million broadband project designed to cover about half of Navajo territory with 550 miles of fiber, 32 new cell towers and upgrades to another 27. It will eventually connect more than 30,000 households and 1,000 businesses."
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Datacenter Gives Internet To 70 Percent of Navajo Nation

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  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:40PM (#44576065)
    I was going to say let's hope this gift doesn't come with viruses like those lousy blankets, way back when, but we know it will.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:40PM (#44576067)
    To bring broadband to every high school in the country, especially rural ones. Sort of like the 1930s rural electrification initiative. Neighboring communities and business could jpiggy back on the school broadband. I do not know how well this succeeded in the past four years.
    • by 0racle ( 667029 )
      Probably about as well as every other telecom bill since 1996 designed to basically do the same thing.
      • by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:49PM (#44576143)


        The problem is that like every other program like this, is that there is no real penalty for NOT doing what you were granted money to do. So you have all kinds of fly-by-night companies appying for and receiving grants, but they don't do anything except do studies and pay themselves. Nothing ever gets built, because it's quicker to take the money and run.

        Rural broadband will only happen when the federal government does it THEMSELVES. Trying to get the "free market" to do things like this is impossible.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Nova corp isn't some fly-by-night company though; I've actually consulted with them (they were looking to upgrade the nation's slot machines from old mechanical ones to new digital card-based models, and open some new casinos). That said, they're run by Navaho nobility, with all the kickbacks, inaction and nepotism such political ties entail. They did get things done, however, which is more than I can say for the US government's attempts in the area.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      Generally tribal land is administered separately, due to its quasi-autonomous status, so they wouldn't be covered under the "regular" rural-broadband programs. However the federal government could choose to give them equivalent subsidies via the Bureau of Indian Affairs to manage themselves, which seems like what's happening here.

  • In unrelated news (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by TWiTfan ( 2887093 )

    Every liquor store in the region just set up a website.

  • also cell based is really that good for fixed base users aka fixed homes / offices. Also fast will it be when all users on one tower all hit YouTube at the same time?

    • "Also fast will it be when all users on one tower all hit YouTube at the same time?"

      A rhetorical question that was, Yoda?

    • by Alok ( 37687 )

      With low population density (i.e. user base) over a large region, its far more cost effective to run a few high bandwidth lines and provide wireless service. Cellular network bandwidth isn't that bad, e.g. people use their mobiles as hotspots - in city areas, which have a far higher density of wireless signals (leading to more interference, and also less available per person).

  • windtalkers (Score:4, Funny)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:55PM (#44576203)

    and now the NSA won't be able to read their email ...

    • Yeah, my first thought was "Great, we'll get the best cryptographers on the planet on the Internet now!" because the Japanese didn't even came close to figuring out what they were saying back in WWII.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @02:56PM (#44576219)

    While there is always debate about whether something like this is the best way to spend money in a poverty stricken area, one way it could help is if "rural sourcing" got started in the Navajo nation. That could include things like software development and call center work. No, it's not for everybody, but when a few people start making better money in a poverty stricken area it sometimes has a positive feed back effect. The newly employed hire someone else to work on their house or their truck, buy other local services, that sort of thing.

    P.S. Now for a couple of things that you know people are dying to say (or groan about).

    1. Finally, software written by real Indians.

    2. In the future I want real Apaches working on the Apache server (hey, at least the Navajos are a related people).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's great they want to connect the Navajo Nation, but the real problem is that you have many homes there that don't have running water or electricity, no less a computer. I just moved away from the area and knowing the Navajo government, this is just a project to generate more money for the government that will not go to the people. This data center will be leased out and none of the money will go to the people, or projects for the people.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What they really need to do is fix the tribal courts. Currently, if you do business there and get into a dispute with the tribal government, you are screwed. There is no guarantee they won't throw sovereign immunity in your face and tell you to go fuck yourself. There's a reason one of the first things the US Congress ever did was waive sovereign immunity for torts and contracts. It lets you do business with the government with the assurance that they can't just take their ball and go home...you at leas

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Sovereign Immunity" is exactly how they tried to fuck over the company that financed and built that glass bridge/walkway and tourist center over the Grand Canyon.

      They entered a tens of millions of dollars agreement with them and then when it came time to start paying them back, they tried to fuck them and renege on the contract. Unfortunately for them the courts sided with the company.


  • New laptop? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Alok ( 37687 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @03:04PM (#44576331)

    That 13 year old girl doubled her lifetime waiting for the net, and her laptop may be a little bit obsolete by now - they should give her an upgrade for starting all this :)

  • Are we supposed to applaud this? It sounds like a boondoggle.

    I read the article, and read the PDF produced by the Navajo 'IT' group. They spent the past 13 years soliciting funds from the state and federal level. This is also another E-Rate disaster [fcc.gov]( FCC based 'broadband' initiative that also 'successfully' hooked up 9 schools in Puerto Rico for 150 million ).

    Obama wants to not increase cell phone taxes to give E-Rate even more funding.....

  • Seems like a lot to me. I tend to think that (1) it could have been done a lot cheaper (wireless?) and (2) if in fact it had to cost that much, then the money probably could have been spent better.

    • $1,500 actually sounds on par with Cable and other broadband initiatives.

      When I got wireless internet at my house back in Highschool it was about $900 for the antenna and gateway etc and speeds where nowhere near cable speeds with really high latency.

  • I'm thinking, "Why does one Datacenter have the power to give away control of the entire Internet, why on earth did they pick Navajo to give it to, and what did that unlucky 30% do to get left out of this sweet deal?"

    Its a old newspaper trick (perfected IMHO by The Register), to use purposely confusing titles to induce the reader to read at least a bit of the article to figure out what's going on. In this case, two sentences in all was made clear, but by then I was reading. Bravo, Editors!

  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    TCP/IP over smoke signals.

  • Fact Check.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by moaneye ( 3020641 ) on Thursday August 15, 2013 @03:46PM (#44576831)
    Just wanted to post some fact check data here. I live 10 miles from the data center, was interviewed for a position there (turned down the consequent job offer) and am friends with the data center administrator. First of all, the article is incorrect - the data center is in Shiprock New Mexico on the Navajo Nation, NOT in Albuquerque. This is a 240+ mile difference. It's a common occurance that news articles written by people outside the area tend to make. Everyone not from New Mexico thinks that Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos are the only places in New Mexico. Also, the data center was not built with grant funds. The grant funds went towards the fiber optic project. NTUA, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, invested their own capital to build the data center. In fact, what the ariticle does not make clear is that NTUA houses and manages the data center. What makes this unusual is that NTUA is the utility for the Navajo Nation (water, sewer, electricity, etc.). Building and running a data center is a little out of their core compentencies. Having said that, however, they've done an impressive job. The data center is state of the art and well built. They have power feeds from two different bulk electric utilities, two massive backup generators, two buildings of UPSs, and a state-of-the art NOC. What they don't have, in my humble opinion, is a completely fleshed out marketing team. But then I don't know exactly what their marketing strategy is anyway. As far as being racist goes, the only comment I've seen so far which I would say is blatantly racist is the one about "every liquor store in the region" putting up a website. That's kind of harsh, and is a really bad sterotype. Again, however, that's just my opinion. This is a free country after all.
    • Thanks for providing actual facts (even if it does put a damper on a good debate).

    • Will they only be and/or "prefer" hiring Native Americans? I'm from Oklahoma where there is a bunch of Indian stuff (I even have an underutilized CDIB card) and one of the crazy things I always came across was that a lot of businesses only seemed to hire native americans. If federal law applies to them, I never could see how this was legal...

      ...Also, never shoplift from an indian gas station. From what I've heard, apparently you go through the indian court system for laws broken like that, where punishmen

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Anonymous Native attorney here, offering information but not advice. Native American preference in hiring is considered under federal law to be similar to a citizenship requirement (it is classified as a political classification) rather than a racial requirement. Hence, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs is allowed to hire with Native preference. See Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535 (1974). Native nations, of course, are sovereigns who can require citizenship just as a state can require state residency for

    • the data center is in Shiprock New Mexico on the Navajo Nation, NOT in Albuquerque. This is a 240+ mile difference. It's a common occurance that news articles written by people outside the area tend to make. Everyone not from New Mexico thinks that Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos are the only places in New Mexico.

      There is a HUGE difference between Albuquerque and Shiprock. Shiprock is beautiful, but in a uber-stark kind of way. And it is small... It makes Farmington look big. And it's "on the rez"... which has both pros and cons. A person would have to be comfortable living in that environment.

    • I was very close to posting something similar to this, I live in Farmington and know that a lot of news agencies outside of the area blow things our of proportion, don't know the facts and either think New Mexico is part of Mexico or a baren desert made of nothing but the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, chili fields, and mexicans slaving away. Hopefully the data center will bring a lot of jobs to the area, but I have yet to see its viability of having numerous servers I don't exactly see a lot of tech r
    • by Rinikusu ( 28164 )

      How sovereign is their, um, sovereignity? For example, if they wanted to build a datahaven, immune to US wiretapping laws, etc (granted, it doesn't stop the NSA from snooping on the ins and outs), how long before the national guard gets called out and they get blasted back to iraq levels?

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!