Welcome to Zuni-Land! Photo: Chu Chu's Restaurant
Opinion | Technology

Gyasi Ross: What the demise of net neutrality means for our Native communities

The Republican-led Federal Communications Commission just killed net neutrality rules that were supposed to ensure equal access to internet services. Gyasi Ross (Blackfeet Nation) explains what it means for businesses, artisans and others in Indian Country:
There’s a Native-owned restaurant in Zuni Pueblo called Chu Chu’s that has some absolutely amazing green chili and cheese fries. It’s a beautiful little establishment, providing an important service to the Zuni people: it provides many of the foods that mainstream America gets to enjoy but with a Pueblo (and New Mexican) twist. Native entrepreneurs—you’re liable to walk through a birthday party or a first date or just someone who wanted to enjoy a pizza.

Chu Chu’s also provides another important service for Zuni (A:shiwi) people: it is one of the few places where a person can get reliable Internet service. Zuni is a remote location where there is over 60 percent unemployment and very little investment into the area. Some 80 percent of Zuni people rely upon art for income—there are many Native communities with comparable numbers. Therefore, Chu Chu’s Internet access is crucial to the success and survival of the many artisans who support themselves by marketing their beautiful pottery and weaving and carving on-line. Chu Chu’s, and places like it within rural areas, literally become lifelines for an economy that provides economic development, self-determination and sovereignty for places where there has been almost zero investment.

Why am I telling you this? Unfortunately, the new Federal Communications Commission regulations, passed by the Republican-controlled FCC 3-2 vote, will have a significant effect on remote Native homelands and places like Chu Chu’s and their ability to provide service for Native artisans and other folks who depends on internet access to provide for their families.

First, assume that Native people simply do not have access to the Internet the same way that most of America does. In fact the FCC’s own 2016 Broadband Progress Report that 41 percent of Tribal lands do not have broadband access. That means that even before the FCC took away net neutrality this week, economically and educationally vulnerable Native communities were already missing out on all of the benefits of widespread Internet usage.

Read More on the Story:
Gyasi Ross: What The End Of Net Neutrality Means For Native Communities (The Huffington Post December 15, 2017)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Additional Coordination and Performance Measurement Needed for High-Speed Internet Access Programs on Tribal Lands (January 29, 2016)

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