Opinion: Internet-Based Sycuan’s Success Highlights Challenges Many Indian Tribes Face

April 24, 2021

In a rural pocket of eastern San Diego County is the home of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation. The Sycuan reserve was set aside 150 years ago by President Ulysses S. Grant.

One square mile became home to a rural band of Mission Indians on land that lacked resources and was not suitable for agriculture. It was a new house in a very poor neighborhood. Nonetheless, the people of Sycuan succeeded, despite all the odds that stood against them.

What makes Sycuan different from other San Diego County reserves? Despite the inability to profit from agriculture and ranching, they invested in economic development projects that led to successful businesses, such as their casino, a high-rise hotel, a golf course, downtown San Diego hotels, a boat anchorage in the bay, and other businesses with more than 2,000 employees.

About ten years ago, the Sycuan tribal government recognized the opportunity and allied with a private cable operator to bring fiber optic technology to the reserve, providing its residents with fast internet access. and reliable. A costly investment at the time, this infrastructure has improved over the years and is being put in place so that new innovations, such as 5G, are quickly deployed on reservation.

As the current pandemic unwound, their wireless infrastructure has proven to be essential for residents of the reserve. Their community health and education initiatives, including community college courses, continued at a distance.

Unfortunately, Sycuan’s success is rare. Some of the 18 Indian reserves in San Diego County lack infrastructure, access to services and economic development. These conditions can have dire consequences. Indian reservations across the country have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Navajo Nation, where an estimated 300,000 Navajo live in the Four Corners area of ​​Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, for example, has seen some of the highest coronavirus case rates in the country. Their home is made up of hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of beautiful and desolate land with large areas within the reserve having little infrastructure.

It’s no secret that Native American populations across the United States face countless barriers to accessing health care or other services that most Americans have easy access to in cities and towns. suburbs.

Infrastructure, access to essential services and economic opportunities help save lives, improve quality of life and contribute to long-term economic prosperity. Sycuan is in part able to prosper due to its past and current investments in economic development projects and in the constant improvement of their infrastructure. In the digital age, working to expand and improve telecommunications infrastructure, as Sycuan has done, is important for advancing services and economic opportunities for all.

Today, a significant number of American children are disadvantaged due to the lack of access to Internet service. During the pandemic, we saw this reality as students did their homework for school on sidewalks in front of fast food restaurants or with the family mobile phone.

Today, we rely on various forms of digital communications, not only for online education, but also for booking appointments, healthcare, and ordering billions of dollars in goods and services. The digital divide in all communities is critical and an issue that must be resolved quickly.

Not only will investing in this infrastructure help provide Internet access to more people, it will also create jobs. Telecommunications companies, such as Crown Castle and carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, are working overtime to deploy 5G infrastructure in San Diego County and across the country. In California alone, 2.3 million 5G jobs and an additional $ 25.3 billion in gross domestic product can be developed by 2025 according to a Accent study commissioned by Qualcomm, based in San Diego.

Research indicates national potential to create or modify up to 16 million jobs while generating up to $ 1.5 trillion in additional national GDP by 2025. The economic impact is extremely valuable, especially in regions lacking resources.

This investment in critical infrastructure will boost local economies and provide a reliable Internet connection with the necessary bandwidth.

As a country, we need to focus on investing in wireless infrastructure. Improving existing infrastructure, as well as deploying wireless infrastructure in rural and Native American communities, are key to bridging the digital divide. Real-time bandwidth in every home will improve people’s access to essential services and support students as many return to hybrid, virtual and in-person classes this month.

Sycuan’s 640 rocky acres of dirt and granite are a testament to the importance of wireless infrastructure to help move communities forward. Economic investments and modern internet connections have transformed the rural Sycuan home from an unforgivable plot of land to an area of ​​prosperity and promise.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book Anglo-Saxon White Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work was published in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.

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