Nav: Home

Internet in wide open spaces

November 02, 2016

Those of us with easy access to the internet often take for granted the plethora of information at our fingertips as well as the ability to communicate -- seemingly in the blink of an eye -- with friends and family both near and far. For people in communities where resources and technology are harder to come by, however, these opportunities are equally limited.

Such is the case for the tribal communities of the San Diego area, where UC Santa Barbara computer science professor Elizabeth Belding, is working to bring cutting edge wireless technology to increase the number of residents who are online in the tribal communities of the San Diego County area. With $550,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Belding and colleagues will study ways of bringing telecommunications connectivity to currently disconnected residents of the rural inland native communities.

"You need the internet for everything," said Belding. "To apply for a job, you have to be online. If you are in a remote part of a reservation, distance learning opportunities and education are critical."

Fueled by two NSF grants -- Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) and Networking Technology and Systems (NeTS) -- Belding and her collaborators at Georgia Tech, Penn State and local partner Tribal Digital Village (TDV), are working to roll out the technology and services necessary to bring online more homes, municipal buildings and businesses on 13 reservations. Some homes have internet service, but many would-be subscribers live in remote areas that are difficult to reach with current wireless technologies.

"Many residents of Native American reservations around the country don't have internet access at all," said Belding, who has worked with unserved populations in Africa and with refugees at camps in the Middle East to provide essential communications infrastructure and technology. "This group is at the forefront."

Among the challenges in providing high-quality broadband service to remote communities such as these is terrain, which can be inhospitable to the conventional terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure. Another is the economics of supplying the services to a relatively small, spread out subscriber base.

"I think that when you're talking about bringing internet connectivity to rural areas there are a lot of commonalities between otherwise disparate communities," Belding said. "You have very geographically dispersed populations, often there are economic challenges, and because there's no infrastructure already you don't necessarily have the technical expertise."

Fortunately, she noted, significant technical expertise comes from local partners at TDV, a program of the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association. The group has been working for over a decade to bring internet services to the rural tribal communities of San Diego County, actively lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to open the "white spaces" -- unused frequencies between TV channels -- for internet service.

"When you think about TV, it covers a really wide geographic area, it has really good penetration properties through foliage and through buildings," said Belding. These frequencies are a relatively new addition to wireless technology bandwidth in this country, but are seen as well suited to rural areas.

The project, still in its trial stages, also will collect anonymized information about user habits in an effort to determine which content would result in the best user experience for the population, especially for those who would still have limited time and opportunity to access the internet. The lessons learned from the field trial and usage study would provide the researchers with information on scalability and internet use that may be specific to this particular population or to Native American populations in general. It could also pave the way for future deployments on other reservations.

"If we're successful with the white spaces buildout we would like to use it as a model for bringing internet to other Native American populations who are not currently online," Belding said.
-end-


University of California - Santa Barbara

Related Technology Articles:

How technology use affects at-risk adolescents
More use of technology led to increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems over time for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.
Hold-up in ventures for technology transfer
The transfer of technology brings ideas closer to commercialization. The transformation happens in several steps, such as invention, innovation, building prototypes, production, market introduction, market expansion, after sales services.
The ultimate green technology
Imagine patterning and visualizing silicon at the atomic level, something which, if done successfully, will revolutionize the quantum and classical computing industry.
New technology detects COPD in minutes
Pioneering research by Professor Paul Lewis of Swansea University's Medical School into one of the most common lung diseases in the UK, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, has led to the development of a new technology that can quickly and easily diagnose and monitor the condition.
New technology for powder metallurgy
Tecnalia leads EFFIPRO (Energy EFFIcient PROcess of Engineering Materials) project, which shows a new manufacturing process using powder metallurgy.
New milestone in printed photovoltaic technology
A team of researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universit├Ąt have achieved an important milestone in the quest to develop efficient solar technology as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Gene Drive Technology: Where is the future?
For this episode of BioScience Talks, we're joined by Gene Drive Committee co-chair James P.
Could Hollywood technology help your health?
The same technology used by the entertainment industry to animate characters such as Gollum in 'The Lord of The Rings' films, will be used to help train elite athletes, for medical diagnosis and even to help improve prosthetic limb development, in a new research center at the University of Bath launched today.
Assessing carbon capture technology
Carbon capture and storage could be used to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and thus ameliorate their impact on climate change.
New technology for dynamic projection mapping
It has been thought technically difficult to achieve projection mapping onto a moving/rotating object so that images look as though they are fixed to the object.

Related Technology Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Setbacks
Failure can feel lonely and final. But can we learn from failure, even reframe it, to feel more like a temporary setback? This hour, TED speakers on changing a crushing defeat into a stepping stone. Guests include entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood, astronomer Phil Plait, former professional athlete Charly Haversat, and UPS training manager Jon Bowers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".