Six miles from nearest pay phone, Navajo settlement gets VoIP

  In the 250,000-population Navajo Nation, a remote settlement known as White Rock Chapter House (pictured above) has never had any type of phone service up until now. Residents of the settlement 160 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico have been so isolated they had to drive six miles on dirt roads to use the nearest pay phone.

whiterockchapterhouse.jpg 

In the 250,000-population Navajo Nation, a remote settlement known as White Rock Chapter House (pictured above) has never had any type of phone service up until now.

Residents of the settlement 160 miles northwest of Albuquerque, New Mexico have been so isolated they had to drive six miles on dirt roads to use the nearest pay phone.

Navajo Nation information technology director Harold Skow has tried to obtain standard phone line service, but was quoted a price of $100,000. And that would have been for a non-broadband service.  

New Mexico State Senator Leonard Tsosie, who represents the Navajo Nation in the State Senate, helped Skow by becoming an advocate for a more practical approach.

Skow decided in favor of a 75-mile microwave connection capable of providing and supporting VoIP, Wi-Fi access points, and videoconferencing.

Cisco Systems stepped up to the plate, with routers as well as Cisco 7940 and 7940G VoIP phones for use at White Rock.

The new infrastructure at White Rock is tied in with Cisco VoIP CallManager equipment already installed in the Navajo Nation's capital of Window Rock, Ariz.

"We wanted the most cost effective way to provide Internet to the hogan (home)," Skow tells Federal Computer Week's Bob Brewin.

Although Skow has not specified a price tag, it sounds like there is a far more noble purpose here than just return-on-investment.

Sen. Tsosie tells Brewin that lack of access to technology is a reason why Navajo children score low on state tests, and that the White Rock installation is a first step toward closing that technology gap. 

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