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Senate Slates Hearing on Native American Broadband Divide

The Senate Commerce
Committee has scheduled a hearing April 5 on broadband in Indian Country.

The hearing is entitled
"Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Native Nations and Communities to
the 21st Century." The FCC last month took several steps to do just that,
including more and better radio service, greater broadband deployment, and
resulting improvements in public safety communications and services like remote
health and education.

No word on witnesses,
but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has already put the importance of the
effort in perspective. At the March 3 meeting, he said: "We know that
there have been lives lost in Native America because of the lack of basic
communications services. We know that in the cold of a recent winter, when a
car broke down on a reservation in the North Plains and a signal was not
available, two young Indian men froze to death. We know that not too long ago
in Arizona Indian Country, when a father and family man had a heart attack, his
family had too far to travel just to reach a telephone. When emergency services
finally arrived, it was too late."