Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

Navajo Nation Middle/Last Mile Project: Quality Broadband for the Navajo People

Navajo National Middle Mile/Last Mile Project proposes to bring high-speed affordable broadband services to the Navajo Nation by deploying 550 miles of new aerial fiber-optic cable and 59 new or modified microwave towers covering 15,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The proposed service area has rugged terrain, significant poverty, and more than 60 percent of residents lack basic telephone service. The project expects to directly connect 49 Chapter Houses, which serve as community centers for the Navajo population, at speeds from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps. Last mile wireless services will be offered at speeds between 1 and 3 Mbps through the project’s wireless partner, Commnet Wireless.

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BTOP In Action
An NTUA crew member begins stringing cable on network poles in New Mexico.

In April 2011, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) began construction on more than 110 miles of aerial fiber-optic cable, initiating the first phase of a five-phase project. NTUA started stringing the first mile of aerial fiber in Tohatchi, N.M., and plans to run the network lines to its district office in Shiprock, N.M.

In total, NTUA will activate 570 miles of fiber-optic network lines and 59 microwave towers to offer connection speeds between 1 and 3 Mbps. These technologies, deployed in northern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico, will cover more than 70 percent of the 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation homeland where most residents only have dial-up connections to the Internet. Once the project is completed, NTUA will make broadband Internet service available to as many as 30,000 households, 1,000 businesses, and 1,100 anchor institutions located throughout the Navajo Nation.

The tribal utility authority is training its employees, which are Navajo Nation citizens, to install and maintain these new Internet technologies. For example, NTUA is working with its technology suppliers and partners to use classroom instruction, webinars, mentors, coaches, and hands-on training to sustain the infrastructure once construction is complete. Currently, seven NTUA personnel are dedicated to building and learning how to sustain this infrastructure; NTUA anticipates it will need up to 12 staff to maintain the infrastructure in the future. In addition, NTUA and Diné College (the Navajo Nation college) have set up a program to educate Navajo citizens on managing new technologies, such as fiber-optic lines and LTE wireless towers.

Last Updated October 18, 2011.

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