Gila River Telecommunications, Inc. is a tribal telecommunications provider serving the Gila River Indian Community, a reservation land area of 583.749 sq mi located on the south side of the Phoenix metro. The community is composed of two member Tribes, the Akimel O’otham (Pima) and the Pee-Posh (Maricopa), with a 2000 Census population of 11,257. Since 1988, GRTI has provided telephone and internet service to residential and business customers and is currently a member of the National Tribal Telecom Association. The company has a number of subsidiaries and is also a 25% owner of the Gila River Cellular General Partnership with Verizon Wireless. GRTI is currently upgrading its broadband infrastructure and is projected to have Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service for all seven districts along the Gila River reservation by 2019.
In addition to offering Enhanced Lifeline rates–which can be combined with an additional Elder Concession discount for customers over the age of 55–GRTI is involved in a number of digital inclusion outreach initiatives in the community. The Computer Purchase Program, which offers affordable refurbished computers to community members, is one such initiative. In fact, it was this program which led to the development of a monthly digital literacy class, led by Duncan Wiston, Marketing Assistant at GRTI. In a phone conversation about the program, Wiston explained that the classes developed in 2014 in response to the many questions that customers had about how to operate and use their new devices.
The classes are largely attended by elders in the community’s seven districts and cover a wide range of constantly changing topics including basic computer skills, online safety, understanding social media terms, and using smart technology in the home. Wiston says the goal is to keep the information entry-level while demonstrating the relevance of technology in the daily lives of the community members. The classes are held every third Wednesday of each month at the GRTI office in Chandler.