Panel tackles lack of broadband in tribal communities

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two western senators are proposing to expand access to federal funds that have enabled public schools and libraries throughout the U.S. to obtain high-speed internet at affordable rates in hopes of closing the digital divide in American Indian communities.

Librarians and other experts gathered Thursday in Washington, D.C., for a panel discussion on the legislation and the needs of tribal communities.

Cynthia Aguilar, a librarian with Santo Domingo Pueblo, described bringing broadband to her tribe as an innovation as large as establishing the railroad more than a century ago in what was then the territory of New Mexico.

While 90 percent of public libraries in the U.S. have received funds through the federal E-rate program that supports improved internet access, officials estimate only 15 percent of tribal libraries have received any of this funding.

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