Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Native Nations and Communities to the 21st Century

April 5, 2011

Chairman RockefellerWASHINGTON, D.C.—Access to modern communications is not a luxury. It's a right. All people, no matter who they are or where they live, deserve access to basic telephone service, wireless service and broadband. Without access to these services, too many of our citizens will be left on the wrong side of the digital divide and denied the kind of job opportunities, educational development, health care options and personal safety that modern communications networks can provide. 

As a Senator from West Virginia I know this all too well. The hills and mountains of my state are a challenge for the deployment of communications infrastructure. In our rural communities, neither wireless service nor broadband service is on par with what it is in more populated parts of the country. I have fought and will continue to fight to bring these services to my state because I believe they are essential to our economic well-being, safety and security.

These same challenges are especially persistent on Tribal lands and in Alaska Native Villages and Hawaiian Homelands. This cries out for our attention and is the subject of our hearing today. For this I thank my colleague and friend, Senator Daniel Inouye. He has been a longtime leader on these issues and a tireless advocate for improved communications for our Native Nations and communities. I look forward to working with him—and with my other colleagues on the Committee—to do our part to close this digital divide and provide our Native lands with the communications infrastructure necessary to prosper and thrive in the 21st century.