We see a lot of news about datacenters being built in remote areas to take advantage of local tax laws, cheap power, geographic stability, or a host of other reasons so that a large business can deliver services for customers. But it’s much rare to hear about datacenters being built to deliver services to the local community. And that’s the purpose of the Shiprock datacenter opened this week by the Navaho Nation.
With little economic motivation to bring services to the remote northwest New Mexico farming communities that make up this part of the Navaho Nation, residents here are effectively cut-off from the modern communications and educational opportunities (and everything else) that reliable internet access can provide. The new datacenter will provide 3G mobile and 4G broadband connectivity to 30,000 homes in the area as well as offering services to businesses and community institutions. Overall, the connectivity reaches almost half of the reservations 27,000 square miles via fibre connections and microwave towers.
The $46 million investment, which includes $32 million in stimulus funds, is a joint venture between the tribal authority and Commnet Wireless known as NTUA Wireless LLC and is 51% owned by the nation. While the bulk of the expenditure has been in building and deploying the wireless infrastructure, the $8 million datacenter facility brings together the wireless infrastructure and the server hosting facilities. Business customers will be able to lease rack space and/or hosting services within the facility, which is the only one of its kind in the region.
According to the Farmington Daily Times, some of the long-term motivation for the project was started when President Clinton visited Shiprock in 2000 and was amazed to find that a 13 year old girl who had been awarded a laptop by her school was unable to connect to the Internet because her home had no phone line. In recognition of the changes the new datacenter was launched with tribal officials opening up a laptop and connecting wirelessly to the Internet, demonstrated by streaming a YouTube video.