As ubiquitous as “The Internet” is, more than 40 million Americans can’t access it from home. And rural Indigenous communities (at least 628,000 households) are some of the most disconnected. They've been forced to come up with their own solutions, and in many ways, they’re succeeding.

This year, COVID-19 has shown the true severity of this digital divide for all. Limited internet access has impacted work-from-home opportunities and alternative income sources for communities whose businesses have been severely impacted. It's complicated telehealth options, and, as schools moved online, placed homes without reliable internet at a severe disadvantage. With more than 50% of Native households without a computer, high-speed internet access, or both, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, Indigenous communities were hit even harder.

To understand what's happening, you have to go back 30 years, when the federal government was in the midst of building the internet. Miles of fiber optic cables were buried underground to connect households with cable broadband, extending networks run primarily by the military at the time. Those projects didn’t reach everywhere — not the Grand Canyon, not the Rocky Mountains, and not the rural, predominantly poor or Indigenous communities scattered across the country.

But some unreached users have found alternative ways to build. The community networks vary. Some are rooted in setting up basic wireless internet connectivity, while others have prioritized full infrastructure projects to build fiber optic cable connections. Most are installed and operated by the community members themselves. These Indigenous operators have founded their own local internet service providers, set rates that are accessible for members, and continue to manage expansion projects with larger service providers as needed.

Read the full article about indigenous communities' internet connection by Chase DiBenedetto at Mashable.