Ross Racine: Indian businesses need Internet for full potential

"The American Indian Foods project represents a growing number of Native-owned businesses that employ the time-tested methods of growing, cultivating and harvesting food consistent with our respect for the land. Yet their products often sound more like the shopping list at a chic urban health food market: locally grown berries, organic chocolates, grass-fed beef and even fine wines. This melding of centuries-old traditions with the 21st century demand for organic foods and sustainable farming reflect an unexpected connection between our rich cultural past and modern commerce.

Of course, the past doesn’t always portend the present. For the 80,000 Native-owned agribusinesses throughout the nation, the future of farming lies with high-speed Internet infrastructure. Access to high-speed data service can help expand markets, connect with local buyers interested in community-supported agriculture and lower equipment costs. And broadband’s ability to link the best doctors and specialists with remote patients will prove extremely valuable in tribal lands, where the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has consistently noted that various cultural, financial and geographic obstacles have led to substandard health services and disproportionately high rates of disease and mortality.

Sadly, too few of us are able to take advantage of this resource. According to recent Federal Communications Commission data, barely 10 percent of households on tribal lands have access to the Internet. Those that do are unable to get the high-speed service that the rest of the country takes for granted in 2011."

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Ross Racine: Tribes, ag businesses need path to digital future (The Billings Gazette 7/8)

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