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North County San Diego Tribe Opens Connected Learning Center

The AT&T Connected Learning Center, located at the Rincon Education Center, increases Internet access for tribal community members, while providing opportunities for students to do homework and for adults to seek employment.

The Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians tribal government administration building in Valley Center on May 26, 2021.
Ariana Drehsler/TNS
(TNS) — A new AT&T Connected Learning Center opened on the Rincon Reservation last month, making it the fifth center in California and the first on tribal lands in the United States.

Located at the Rincon Education Center, the computer lab increases internet access for tribal community members, while providing opportunities for students to do homework, adults to seek employment, and more.

"This is an absolute dream come true for our seniors, youth and the many tribal members who for many years did not have access to technology for the use of gathering information," said Bo Mazzetti, Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians chairman.

The AT&T center provides tribal members with free access to the internet and computers, as well as educational resources like The Achievery, a distance learning platform. Through digital literacy courses, people can learn everything from how to start using a computer to ways to avoid online scams.

Increasing access to broadband internet service has long been an issue within Indigenous communities.

As online homework and research has become an increasingly crucial part of excelling in schools, a lack of access to high-speed internet has remained a barrier for students on rural, tribal lands. The Federal Communications Commission reported in 2019 that among those living on rural, tribal lands, only 65 percent had access to broadband internet, compared to 99 percent of homes in urban areas of the United States.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs reports there are several barriers to internet access for Indigenous communities, including a lack of coordination, low adoption rate and insufficient funding for infrastructure projects.

In addition to the center, AT&T also gave Rincon $50,000 to support its Education Department programming.

Last year, Rincon and AT&T announced a collaboration to build a fiber network on the reservation so its more than 400 homes could access more reliable broadband service as part of the tribe's effort to get better connected.

©2023 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.