Navajo Housing Authority, NAU develop interactive web app showing WiFi locations on the Navajo Nation

The Navajo Housing Authority (NHA) partnered with Northern Arizona University, Choice NTUA Wireless and Sacred Wind Communication to develop an interactive WiFi hotspot web map.

“We and AECOM complied geospatial data from multiple sources to develop and host the map to show available WiFi hotspots on and off the Navajo Nation,” said Nadine Clah, NHA information technology analyst. “With schools being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the WiFi hotspots allow students to access online classes from their vehicles while practicing CDC guidelines.”

A 2019 report from the Federal Communications Commission found that 21.3 million people in the United States lacked an internet connection of at least 25 Mbps (megabits per second)/3 Mbps at the end of 2017. Approximately 4.3 million of these people were located in rural America of tribal lands.

Since the pandemic started, NAU ITS and the Office of Native American Initiatives have coordinated with tribal leadership to offer WiFi in public outdoor spots on the Navajo and Hopi Nations. Permission to install WiFi devices started with the Navajo Nation Library and Museum property in Window Rock and the Good Shepherd Mission in Fort Defiance, the locations of the NAU American Indian Nursing Program. The hotspots typically extend the WiFi from the buildings to the parking lots so student can remain socially distanced while completing course. Since the initial installation, tribal leaders and NAU have worked together to install multiple WiFi hotspots ensuring all students have access.

“With inadequate access to high-speed internet on the Navajo Nation, helping people find these WiFi hotspots will be critical to support their continued education,” Clah said. “The WiFi hotspots shown on the web map were approved for use from Northern Arizona University, who received clearance from the Navajo Nation and the Hopi tribe leadership to extend WiFi from buildings to parking lots in select locations.”

Most of the WiFi hotspot access points are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but times vary depending on Navajo Nation curfew hours. Points can be accessed from any mobile device including laptops and smartphones. Most do not require passwords to connect, however, a few hotspots have been identified for student use only. WiFi hotspots will be updated when telecommunication companies submit new geospatial data.

To access the map of locations, follow the link: Free WIFI Hotspots.