Earlier today, I had the pleasure of visiting the Pueblo of Acoma in central New Mexico along with Senator Tom Udall, my second visit to Indian Country in 2014. I saw buildings carved out of the earth by hand in the 17th Century, and also met with community leaders focused on unlocking the digital opportunities of the 21st Century.
I had enlightening discussions with Tribal leaders on the economic development opportunities that come with enhanced communications access. The conversations brought home the heightened importance for Tribal communities of so many issues before the FCC.
Acoma illustrates the power of communications technology to overcome geographic isolation and put a world of information and economic opportunity at the fingertips of citizens in even the most remote communities.
It also demonstrates how we still have a digital divide in this country, with rural communities, and especially Native Americans, disproportionately on the wrong side, getting bypassed by the Internet revolution.
Acoma is located in Cibola County, where nearly half of residents (45%) don’t even have access to 3 Mbps broadband, which is less than what’s recommended to stream HD video without problems. Barely 10 % have access to 10 Mbps broadband. We must do better.
In communities like Acoma with low broadband access rates, the local library is often a digital lifeline for area residents. That’s certainly true of Acoma.
I visited the Acoma Learning Center – the town library, which has a computer lab with 10 desktops. Area adults rely on the Learning Center’s computer lab to look up information on everything from jobs to health care, and children use these computers for help with their homework after school.
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