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Case Study: Broadband Availability Data Collection and Mapping at Navajo Preparatory School

The Navajo Preparatory School (Navajo Prep) in New Mexico serves learners across the Navajo Nation, which is the size of West Virginia. The school enrolls approximately 270 students from more than 50 majority-rural communities.

The school made extensive efforts to ensure internet availability for all learners, regardless of their residential location. At the beginning of the pandemic, all learners returned to their homes across the Navajo Nation. To ensure they had sufficient broadband, the school distributed a survey to learners to better understand their various levels of internet access and specific residential location, down to their GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude). The survey revealed that many learners did not have access to reliable, high-speed broadband, or learners’ broadband access was constrained to a speed of 1 Mbps or less, far under what is necessary to facilitate high-quality learning experiences. Based on the residential locations provided, the school developed a map of which ISPs and cellular services would reach homes. Their school staff installed the necessary equipment on learners’ homes, including extending cellular coverage by installing routers and antennas. For learners who could not be reached by wired or cellular service due to little or no coverage in certain rural areas, the school installed HughesNet satellite technology. In some cases, the school distributed multiple hotspots to each learner in order for them to have sufficient broadband access for learning.

Through the pandemic, Navajo Prep was agile in adapting and modifying approaches, as they attained access to more resources and different service providers for cellular services. They are maintaining the home internet options for all learners in case the school needs to transition online in the future, as well as to ensure that learners have reliable, high-speed broadband for learning when they are home.