Welcome to fourth Digital Inclusion Corps Field Report. In this column, we hear from different members of our Digital Inclusion Corps pilot team. If you’re interested in learning more about the projects, check out the page.

This installment comes from Nicole Umayam, our Corps member in Arizona, hosted at the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Record.

To say that there’s a lot going on in the Arizona landscape is an understatement: 370 miles of a national border, a sprawling metropolis of 1.5 million people, and 27 federally recognized Native American tribes all within a diverse terrain of mountains, valleys, canyons, and baseball stadiums. During this phase of the project, I wanted to see what efforts are currently underway to close the digital divide in the state. While not exhaustive, the following list highlights the activities of institutions and community-based organizations touching the digital inclusion space in Arizona.

American Indian Policy Institute. A research unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, AIPI is an American Indian public policy think-tank with expertise in telecommunications, broadband, digital inclusion, technology for language retention, and technology for community and economic development. In addition to supporting and providing training for entrepreneurs, AIPI also provides training in digital literacy.

ArizonaOn. ArizonaOn is a partner of EveryoneOn which works statewide to deliver home access, affordable computers, and digital literacy training. Connect2Compete, EveryoneOn’s flagship program for K-12 students, provides low-cost Internet and devices to qualifying students and families. No metrics are available at this time for ArizonaOn’s reach.

Arizona Department of Education. ADE’s Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative, with support from Governor Doug Ducey, seeks to ensure schools statewide have scalable, affordable, and reliable access to high-speed broadband. This involves making strategic use of E-rate funding and taking advantage of assistance from EducationSuperHighway’s funding matching. Thanks to the Initiative, 91% of schools in Arizona are connected via fiber, outfitting them for future bandwidth growth.

Arizona Public Safety Broadband Network. With an emphasis on using telecommunications for public safety and to support first responders, the AZPSBN collaborates with public safety entities across the state to identify, plan, and implement infrastructure and equipment associated with Arizona’s First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) wireless and data services needs. AZPSBN also managed the Arizona Broadband Assessment Project (AZ BAP) which collected extensive statewide broadband coverage data and generated the Broadband Planning Mapping Tool for use by community planners– an invaluable resource, if not for the map being offline.

Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The Library Services branch of LAPR administers grants and coordinates statewide projects to support libraries throughout the state. Library Services also provides critical training and support for E-Rate applicants and just recently instated a full-time E-Rate administrator. Recently, LAPR completed the Arizona Public Computer Centers Project (made possible by the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) which enhanced existing facilities in over 80 public libraries by deploying computers and upgrading existing broadband capacity. The Library Development division is another important player in the digital inclusion space because of the connections and subject expertise of the Tribal and Technology Consultant who works to support tribal libraries in Arizona.

Arizona Students Recycling Used Technology. AZStRUT is a non-profit based in Mesa, Arizona (Maricopa County), which collects recycled computers, teaches students how to rebuild the computers at various refurbishing schools, and donates the newly outfitted equipment to schools and nonprofits. Currently, AZStRUT only has two refurbishing schools outside of the Phoenix Metro area, but Arizona entities statewide may apply to receive equipment from the organization.

GovNET, LLC. GovNET is a specialized telecommunications provider which implemented the State of Arizona-Counties Communication Network (SACCNet) Critical Middle Mile project, constructing a network of five interconnected native IP microwave rings containing 54 backbone hub sites. The network brings affordable and faster broadband service to 268 community anchor institutions throughout all 15 counties in the state.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority. A not-for-profit enterprise of the Navajo Nation Council, NTUA provides utility services to the Navajo Nation as well as network services. Between 2010 and 2014 NTUA implemented the Navajo National Middle Mile/Last Mile Project to build out 550 miles of aerial fiber-optic cable and 59 new or modified microwave towers in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, spurring affordable and sufficient broadband capabilities for households, businesses, and critical anchor institutions. The project also implemented last mile wireless services through a partnership with Commnet Wireless.

National Tribal Telecommunications Association. The NTTA is comprised of nine tribally owned and operated telecommunications companies, six of which are in Arizona. NTTA advocates for its members on a federal level, including providing testimony in favor of an increase in available Lifeline credit on tribal lands to offset the higher costs of broadband service.

Native Public Media. Comprised of Hopi and Navajo tribal members, NPM acts a unifying voice for the Native media democracy movement and promotes greater access and scope for Native voices. They are heavily involved in policy concerning broadband adoption on tribal lands and public broadcasting. NPM’s initiatives have included campaigning for the Lifeline program and leveraging funding to keep Native public radio service on air. The group has also conducted quantitative and qualitative analyses of technology and internet use in Indian Country.  

Phoenix Public Library. An NDIA affiliate, Phoenix Public Library fulfills their mission of to “connect today’s community to a world of possibilities” by offering free public internet access at all 17 branch libraries via wireless internet and public computer stations. 5 of the branches offer regularly scheduled computer classes for a variety of skill levels with instruction offered in English and Spanish, as well as holding “practice lab” hours with staff available to help on a one-on-one basis.
As is the case with all ground research, this list of digital inclusion players will continue to grow as my research continues. I’m eager to reach out to these institutions in the coming weeks to coordinate our digital equity efforts in Arizona.