DARRINGTON, Wash. - The information superhighway has come to the 20 families who live on the Sauk-Suiattle Indian reservation in the remote Cascade Mountains, thanks to an initiative to bring broadband technology and its benefits to Indian tribes in rural and remote areas.
Each of the families has a new computer with wi-fi (wireless fidelity) high-speed Internet access under the initiative, developed by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians - Economic Development Corp. (ATNI-EDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Verizon Avenue. The families also received computer training and have access to a private network that will enable them to share information about grant applications, health and local news.
"These new computers and high-speed Internet access open a world of opportunities to the tribe that we didn't have before," said Chief Jason L. Joseph. "Education is key to a better life for our families, and having broadband gives us the power to take advantage of distance learning and hundreds of colleges and universities that offer online degrees. We're grateful to our technology partners who made this possible."
One of the 20 families to benefit is the Pughs. John Pugh has a 158-mile round-trip commute to his office in Redmond, a drive that often takes as long as five hours a day. Pugh is looking forward to using his new computer to telecommute a few days a week so he can spend more time with his family and the community. He also plans to complete his bachelor's degree by taking online college courses.
Other possibilities now available to the Pughs and the other families include e-commerce applications for selling goods and services.
ATNI-EDC Technology Director Elstun Lauesen said, "We're looking to bridge the digital divide and increase opportunity and hope. We'd like to use the Sauk-Suiattle tribe project as a model for other remotely located reservations in the Great Northwest. Having advanced technology like a wi-fi network increases the chance for prosperity and pursuit of opportunities that are available in major cities."
The Sauk-Suiattle tribe, ATNI-EDC and Verizon Avenue entered into a three-year term partnership in December 2003 to build and support a high-speed Internet access computer network. As part of the agreement, Verizon Avenue built the wi-fi network - which can be accessed almost anywhere on the reservation -- and provided the tribe with 20 computers. ATNI donated the computer training and will assist the tribe in creating its private network. One Economy built the tribe's customized Web portal that includes free e-mail accounts and Web-based tools and information on financial services, education, jobs, health care and family.
The Gates Foundation has supported both the tribe with a grant for computer equipment and also the ATNI Tribal Technologies initiative through the foundation's Community Access to Technology grant program.
Residents in the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Reservation are the surviving descendents of the original peoples who lived in the region of Sauk Prairie, near the present-day town of Darrington. The current tribe membership is around 200 individuals, some of whom live near the reservation.
ATNI-EDC is a non-profit organization that helps Indian tribes utilize telecommunications and information technology to stimulate economic development on the reservations.
The One Economy Corporation (www.one-economy.com) is a national non-profit organization dedicated to maximizing the potential of technology to help low-income people build assets and raise their standard of living.
Verizon Avenue, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, bundles local and long-distance service together with high-speed Internet access for residents of multifamily communities. Verizon Avenue offers service to high-rise properties, apartments and condominium communities in most of the major metropolitan markets including Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York, Tampa and Washington, D.C. For more information about Verizon Avenue, visit www.verizon.com/avenue.
A Fortune 20 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $68 billion in annual revenues. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.