Connecting California Tribal Communities to the Digital World

Marc Blakeman, President of AT&T California
March 16, 2023
Broadband Access and Affordability, Community Impact

Connecting California Tribal Communities to the Digital World

You know that feeling you get when you’re a part of something special? It often can be difficult to describe, but it’s knowing that something wonderful is happening that will significantly impact the lives of many people today, and for generations to come.

That’s how I felt when I joined tribal leaders, community members and business leaders to celebrate the opening of a new AT&T Connected Learning Center (CLC) on the tribal lands of the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians, located in the northeastern corner of San Diego County, California. It was an inspiring and groundbreaking day to witness.

There were so many reasons for us to celebrate. The Rincon Education Department center is now home to the first AT&T CLC on tribal land in the U.S. The center will give families access to free internet connectivity, computers, digital tools and educational content to help them participate in online learning, apply for jobs and set them up for future success. The center fills a gap as Rincon Tribe students and families have limited access to both the internet and computers outside of school and work.

But even more remarkably, AT&T’s investment in the tribal community, a community that has found itself impacted by the digital divide, with limited access to the internet for basic functions, was met with welcome arms by tribal leadership and the tribal community. The authentic and heartful energy and excitement was palpable.

The Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians occupies a 5,000-acre reservation, which was established by an Executive Order on December 27, 1875. As we recognized Rincon’s long, rich history, we also felt that a new era was upon us. During our time together, we were able to experience the tribe’s rich culture, the beautiful history and the genuine humanity. Hearing stories from tribal leaders, neighboring tribal communities and those who will benefit from the access to future possibilities that the center will offer was extraordinary.

It was made clear introducing technology to the youth and families on the Rincon tribal lands will help create opportunities they hadn’t yet envisioned. Under one roof, the tribal communities will have access to high-speed AT&T Fiber internet, Wi-Fi and computers equipped with integrated audio and webcams to support virtual learning. Students and families will have access to high-speed broadband internet, with digital literacy tools and resources, and the ability to do that where they live, in their community, with their peers.

For parents and families, this support is more meaningful than any of us could have imagined. We underestimate what a parent experiences when their child is given the opportunity to thrive with newfound access to the digital world. The experience helping their child get ahead – and not fall behind – the joy can’t be measured.

It’s truly exciting to see firsthand how access to broadband connectivity is improving lives and creating opportunities across California, especially in our Tribal communities. We look forward to working together to connect more Californians – because no one deserves to be left behind.