WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) announced that Navajo Technical University (NTU) was awarded $667,909 by the National Science Foundation to improve broadband connectivity for Native students, expanding access to educational opportunities and workforce training throughout the region.
NTU is the country’s largest tribal university, offering academic and research programs to students across Navajo Nation, particularly in the Science, Technology, Education, and Math (STEM) fields. But uneven Internet access has long hampered effective classroom instruction and prevented successful participation in distance and online learning programs. This grant, which will fund upgrades to NTU’s network speeds and bandwidth, ensures students’ access to an increasingly interconnected global research and education community. It will also serve as a blueprint for other tribal universities and colleges to embrace similar technological improvements in the future.
“Closing the digital divide for Native communities is an educational and economic imperative for New Mexico and Indian Country,” said Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “Building reliable broadband for Native students increases access to vital educational, research, and training opportunities. By improving bandwidth and connectivity, Navajo Tech will enhance student participation in programs that are critical to training the next generation of Native leaders for in-demand careers at national laboratories and high-tech industries. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and top Democrat on the Indian Affairs Committee, I’ll continue working to secure investments in New Mexico’s economic future and advance opportunities that help Native students succeed in the classroom, the workforce, and beyond.”
“An upgraded broadband network will be a game changer not only for Navajo Tech, but also for expanded internet access in the entire Crownpoint community. We need to expand broadband connectivity in Indian Country so all of our students and children can compete on an even playing field and learn the skills they need to build 21st century careers,” said Heinrich, who is working to advance his bipartisan Tribal Connect Act to improve broadband connectivity in Indian Country. “Broadband access is vital to improving education, tele-health services, and job-training opportunities. As the Ranking Member of the Joint Economic Committee, I am committed to making more forward-looking investments like this to ensure all of our children have the opportunity to learn and succeed.”
“Broadband internet access is critical to getting ahead as the engine of America’s modern economy,” said Luján. “Unfortunately, when it comes to broadband access, tribal communities have been disproportionately left behind. This investment in Navajo Technical University will promote educational success, civic engagement, economic growth, and smart health care for the entire Navajo nation. If air-travelers can have Internet access at 30,000 feet in a plane, those of us on the ground should be able to have Internet access in rural New Mexico. We should bridge the digital divide and end – once and for all – the reality of digital haves and have-nots.”