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Navajo Nation Losing Internet Access 360

An anonymous reader writes "Due to contracts that are allegedly FUBAR, and associated wrangling, the Navajo Nation is being cut off by its satellite ISP. This is the final stage of the process, which already deprived chapter houses of access last April. While the business mechanisms play themselves into the expected ludicrous snarl, the real question may be: Is there a place for an inexpensive ham/technogeek/FOSS solution that could bypass the antics of the for-pay providers?"
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Navajo Nation Losing Internet Access

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  • Radios... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Devil's BSD ( 562630 ) on Friday August 01, 2008 @11:57PM (#24444571) Homepage
    Well, we know the Navajo are great with wireless communication and encryption... []

  • by Ignis Flatus ( 689403 ) on Friday August 01, 2008 @11:58PM (#24444577)
    They're binary, right?
  • Nations vs. Internet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 01, 2008 @11:59PM (#24444579)

    At some point, we are going to realize that a world divided into nations cannot coexist with a world united [] on one internet.

    It's already strange enough having nations like the Navajo trying to exist inside other nations.

    What use are nations these days? Don't they just divide us?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:08AM (#24444637)

      What use are nations these days? Don't they just divide us?

      The world is full of unimaginable horrors and humans being deprived from basic necessities and rights. The idea of a nation is to divide the world into blocks that are small enough that you could possibly do something about the terrible condition in which you and your fellow citizens exist.

      How much more likely are you to be able to uplift the condition of a small nation than a large one? A great deal.

      How likely are you to be successful in attempts to uplift the condition of all men in all nations? Not very likely.

    • The point of nations is that you and I are considered property by other people, no matter what kind of pleasant label they put on it.
    • by 12357bd ( 686909 )

      Don't they just divide us?

      Oh Yes!, and a single specie, is much better than millions of differents beings, also!

      Don't get fooled, diversity IS the norm, monolithical conceptions are just a one's mind nightmare.

    • Nonsense (Score:3, Insightful)

      Monoculture society, like large agricultural monoculture, is anti-survival. In general a monoculture, lacking the strength of diversity, is prone failure from the first serious malevolent force or organism to threaten it. A multitude of famines throughout history has proven this for agriculture; there is very good reason to believe -- actually there is also good historical evidence -- that this concept has a close analogy with human "cultures".

      While one worldwide society might SEEM like a worthwhile goal
  • HAM is right out. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bartab ( 233395 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:02AM (#24444605)

    Not only is amateur radio restricted to non commercial uses - meaning important things like NO ADS ALLOWED more than simply no generation of profit for sending over those frequencies. However, it's also "no vulgarity", and "no encryption" as well.

    • Long haul 802.11g it is then.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bitrex ( 859228 )
      Wait, so it's impossible to troll amateur radio? That..That's j...I ca...It's imp...-head explodes-
      • Wait, so it's impossible to troll amateur radio?

        Unfortunately, it happens all the time. The FCC is nowhere near aggressive enough in enforcing the rules. When they do enforce them, they do so with a huge sledgehammer and a pile of bricks -- but they only do it very rarely.

    • Not to mention, its what, 9600 baud? Better off with dial-up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by westlake ( 615356 )
      Not only is amateur radio restricted to non commercial uses - meaning important things like NO ADS ALLOWED more than simply no generation of profit for sending over those frequencies. However, it's also "no vulgarity", and "no encryption" as well.

      not to mention the geek's blithe ignorance of geography.

      the Navajo Nation is 26,000 square miles in size, with a population density of about 7 people per square mile. desert icons like Monument Valley are to be found there.

  • by GuNgA-DiN ( 17556 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:10AM (#24444653)

    "Is there a place for an inexpensive ham/technogeek/FOSS solution that could bypass the antics of the for-pay providers?"

    That question is just as relevant for the rest of the world as it is for the Navajo nation. What happens when AOL/Time Warner/Microsoft/CNN/MSNBC/Taco Bell and Carl's Jr. take over the world? There is no Net neutrality anymore. Everything we do is being watched, and reported to the corporations of the world. In the future we won't be able to sneeze or fart without someone knowing about it somewhere.

    When are we going to get together to start forming our own backbones? We need a fat pipe that will always remain open and free and that can't be taken over by corporate greed. But, how would you pay for such a thing? How would you create it? How would you maintain it?

    I'd be willing to pitch in $80 / month for a truly neutral network. What's your price? How much would you be willing to pay to have access to a FREE (as in speech) Internet connection?

    • What happens when AOL/Time Warner/Microsoft/CNN/MSNBC/Taco Bell and Carl's Jr. take over the world?

      Have you been living under a rock for 10 years? Yeah, I'm really worried about AOL and CNN taking over. Your list of companies reads like a laundry list of has-been corporations that were big in the 90s.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by fm6 ( 162816 )

        Nonsense. Taco Bell is destined to achieve domination after Franchise Wars. I, for one, welcome our new pseudo-Mexican masters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      How about Fidonet?

  • I'm wondering what the long term plan is. Do Navajos want to get wired Internet eventually and (more generally) get connected to civilization? Do they want to continue to lead an isolated rural lifestyle and have the US government pay for Internet access? Or what?

  • by selfdiscipline ( 317559 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:15AM (#24444685) Homepage

    I did some volunteer web development for a non-profit that deals with a high school on a navajo reservation. A lot of the students only had access to computers at school, and I was thinking that the OLPC project would be perfect for them... although I'm not so enthusiastic with the direction that OLPC seems to be taking.

    But anyway, having a mesh-network with cheap netbooks like the OLPC would be a great way to extend access from some single source, if one could be found or created.

    Also, I'll be going out there in 3 weeks with some members of this non-profit that I worked for, so I'll get a first-hand look at their situation.

  • Ask the Telcos (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:17AM (#24444699)

    See if the local telco will set something up for them. They can use fixed wireless links from the nearest CO if running fiber costs too much.

    The telcos have a vested interest in keeping various local, state and/or federal governments out of the broadband business. Its the old slippery slope argument. First, its just a publicly owned system for the Navajos. Next thing you know, they'll be wiring up _my_ neighborhood. (One can hope.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:17AM (#24444701)

    This not due to USAC's problems.

    This action is being taken because the service provider and the applicant for the services BOTH conspired to break the rules surrounding the ERATE (Federal program that gives discounts on ELEGIBLE technology, at ELIGIBLE locations, to ELIGIBLE entities).

    Wireless services were ONLY supposed to be offered at eligible school locations (classrooms, areas where data needed to transit to GET TO classrooms), but instead the wireless services were installed as a generic community service, some of them winding up in admin areas, boarding halls, and bus barns (all NON-ELIGIBLE areas).

    Some folks are making this out to be a case of 'the white man screwing over the indian,' where in reality it is a case of 'the white man catching another white man and the indian breaking rules, and making them pay for their actions.'

    For more information, go dig up some article from the Funds for Learning website ( or

  • John McCain to the rescue.

    Seriously. He's the man for this job. It's in his domain. It'll be a good test of his influence and his geek credibility.

    And he's advertising on slashdot now. That's so cool.

    • Ok, so I get how some people have an axe to grind. Partisan politics and all that. I get that. Look, though. Moderation is supposed to be fair. The Navajo Nation is at mostly in Arizona. I have friends on the reservation there. John McCain is the Senator from Arizona. How in the world (to use a nice word) is the parent off topic? I've been to the Navajo Nation. I've been to the Apache Nation. They could both use his help, and all the other help they can get. Does the fact that he's currently a cand

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 )

      Because the State of Arizona and the Navajo Nation get along so fantastically well!

      Heck, they can't even agree on the time of day for most of the year.

  • They complain they have to drive up to 60 miles to Page, AZ to get internet access.

    It should be trivial to set up a 60 mile WiFi link for pennies compared to satellite internet.
    Also, laying down fiber is cheap. A lot of long valleys with a few hundred residents have fiber laid. A little innovation and community effort here can solve this for the better.

    Maybe getting weened of the satellite access paid for by your internet tax may actually do them some good.

  • by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:40AM (#24444861)

    This is definitely not the kind of problem that can be solved by geeks writing code. It's a physical layer issue, one of the hardest "last miles" in the country.

    The Navajo Nation sits in hilly desert country. The population density is very low (it's desert, after all) and it's pretty far from anywhere (the AZ/NM/UT border). Most of the telephone service is provided by Frontier Navajo, who I think bought the tribal telephone company. On the NM side, some is now being served by Sacred Wind, a new phone company using WiMAX, with USF funding, to cover areas with an average population density below one person per square mile. Qwest, using old wireline technology, wouldn't go there; Sacred Wind needs to spend something approaching $10k/home using the latest radio technology. That's a fraction of what wireline would cost - and btw, USAC (the FCC's USF subsidiary) might well have spent more (they've funded >$20k/home for FTTH) if asked; that program is totally out of control. See "Sandwich Isles Communications" for a real horror show.

    Frontier's network, which covers most of the reservation, is a traditional rural wireline telco, incapable of providing broadband outside of the villages. And if you want to lease a T1 from them, try $75/mile! So satellite, while hardly ideal, is usually the best option. And the bureaucrats should get off their duffs and fix the problem.

    I've done some preliminary studies and it looks like some types of high-powered mesh radio network can cover rustic plains at reasonable cost, but this is in the foothills of the Rockies, not flatland, and the hills get in the way, so it would be very costly (as with Sacred Wind).

  • Piece Of Cake (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Foofoobar ( 318279 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:47AM (#24444909)
    Yes... you just need one location to get a T1 line in (or some other major pipe). The grab a bunch of wireless trasmitter boxes from someplace like these guys ( They all run Linux and you can connect to them wirelessly. Plus they have 3-5 mile trasmissions on some of the high end models. Do it right and you have a Navajo nation connected wirelessly on one T1 line. :)
  • every geek in the world would be getting free internet access from some Wiley Coyote style setup in their back yard. Note: Stealing the next door neighbour's unencrypted WiFi doesn't count. That's just too easy.

  • Oh, for... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @12:57AM (#24444951)

    "Is there a place for an inexpensive ham/technogeek/FOSS solution that could bypass the antics of the for-pay providers?"

    Of course, it's all so simple! We could all build little F/OSS rockets out of plywood, duck tape and bailing wire, putting libre communications satellites based on Pringle's can technology into geosynchronous orbit!

  • Have we reached the point where access to the internet is more important than electricty and running water? Really? 18,000 Navajo families live without electricity, and use kerosene lamps at night, but they can't live without the internet? * []

    Out of all the grief /. gives Bill Gates, this one you can honestly blame him for. His foundation was the funding [] instigator of this technolgical leap-froging, and the racist motivation is obvious, as no one would believe he's that ignorant. I don't know why, maybe h
    • the racism cuts both ways.

      Native americans have abused anti-discrimination laws to double-cross and interfere with scientific organizations and kept potentially ground breaking archaeological finds tied up in murderous litigation for decades.

      • by Nymz ( 905908 )
        True. And one way to fight racism, and those race-baiters, is to call them on it. (like you just did) Too many people are afraid of being attacked and labeled themselves, with terms like Racist, Homo-phobe, Islamo-phobe, or in the case of anonymous Slashdot moderation... Troll.
  • by zullnero ( 833754 ) on Saturday August 02, 2008 @01:10AM (#24445027) Homepage
    Obviously, there's a magical solution as well if there's a FOSS solution to providing wireless internet access to a very large area. It may involve a combination of wireless access point implants that generate a large scale wifi cloud.

    Just because it's /. doesn't mean you need to stick "FOSS" in your question. It's the most overused and abused acronym around these parts. It costs money to set up wireless routers, pay the electric bill, get them connected to a provider, and pay that bill as well. We just had our free metro wi-fi turned off because even pumping ads at people wasn't enough to pay for it. Sorry, Libertarians, you're going to need a government solution for this one. Unless the tribe pays the bill or some corporation that has a lot of extra money they don't want to give to their employees is willing to donate it.
  • I know it can be tough to go low-baud after having high speed internet, but don't these guys have a working implementation of TCP/IP Over Smoke Signal?

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"