The Digitally Deserted

The Project

The Digitally Deserted is a multimedia video series about two families from the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Reservation and their interactions with the Internet. The Garcia family lives on the reservation and doesn’t have any access to the Web in their home. The Smith family moved from the reservation to Albany, Calif. and has high-speed Internet in their apartment.


The Internet: Accessible for some

Since the Internet phenomenon rushed across North America close to 20 years ago usage has grown from 0.75 percent to more than 79 percent of the country’s population, according to Google Public Data. Although the vast majority of the country’s population has the luxury of web access, a large number of people are being left behind as technology dashes forward everyday.



On Reservations: A disparity

Native Americans living on reservations are a major part of the population who are being left behind in era of the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission’s Tribal Initiatives program was created in 2010 as a response to the lack of advancement in communications and technology in tribal communities. The FCC Office of Native Affairs and Policy reports that the broadband deployment rate on “tribal lands is less than 10 percent, and anecdotal evidence suggests that actual usage rates may be as low as 5 to 8 percent, compared to 65 percent nationwide.”

This disparity is clear on the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian Reservation in Southern California. The community – which is located less than 140 miles southeast of Los Angeles and a mere 30 miles from Palm Springs – is a part of the sprawling Coachella Valley. Yet, advances in home Internet access in this small community of 236 residents remains stagnant. DSL services are not yet available. Satellite, broadband and even dial up options have limited accessibility either because homes don’t have the infrastructure set up or because families can’t afford it. Internet is available at the tribal headquarters, where members can use one of the seven computers in the library during limited hours. Oddly enough, the web is also accessible through cellular phones.



Related Stories

FCC Eyes Broadband For Indian Reservations

On Tribal Lands, Digital Divide Brings New Form Of Isolation

 New online world ahead for Indian reservations


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