24 February 2001
Text: Research Network Brings Wireless Internet to Native American
(Solar-powered net connects tribes near San Diego, California) (550)
Experimental network provides the La Jolla and Pala tribes with
high-speed Internet connections
Following is a February 8 press release from the National Science
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are
using the latest solar-powered wireless technology to help a pair of
Native American tribes bridge the digital divide. The High Performance
Research and Education Network (HPWREN) is overcoming geographical,
social, and technical barriers to bring high-speed Internet access to
the La Jolla and Pala tribes.
In remote San Diego County, HPWREN's 45Mbps (million bits per second)
wireless backbone connects the low-lying San Diego coastline with the
county's mountainous eastern region, home of the La Jolla and Pala
Native American reservations. This outreach is funded by the National
Science Foundation (NSF) as part of an experimental wireless network
that also links UCSD with the Mount Laguna Observatory (operated by
San Diego State University and the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign), an earthquake-detection site (run by the Scripps
Institution of Oceanography, and two large ecological reserves with
multiple field stations. UCSD received a $2.3 million NSF award in
August 2000 to create, demonstrate and evaluate the prototype
wide-area network for research and education.
Connecting the Native American communities posed special challenges
for the team led by computer scientist Hans-Werner Braun and
geophysicist Frank Vernon of UCSD. Foremost among these is the rugged
terrain where the reservations are located - ranging from valleys with
elevation of 2,000 feet above sea level to mountain peaks at 5,000
"There are no line-of-sight views of existing microwave towers from
the sites," Braun said. "And in the case of La Jolla, we didn't even
have access to electric grid power on the mountain ridge edge of the
That necessity prompted HPWREN staff to design a system of solar
arrays and batteries for beaming digital signals where land-based
lines aren't practical. After first testing the solar setup last fall,
the team deployed it in December on Palomar Mountain, which looms
above the La Jolla high-speed Internet.
La Jolla tribal members worked closely with the HPWREN team to prepare
the solar-powered system and antennae that would provide the
reservation's learning center with high-speed Internet connectivity.
Now young and old alike gather in the La Jolla and Pala learning
centers to surf the Internet at lightning speed.
"The UC San Diego collaboration with La Jolla provides an opportunity
for our learning center to receive access to technology and
capabilities that we otherwise would not have in our remote county
area," said Jack Musick, La Jolla tribal chairman. "We look forward to
building educational programs that allow children and adults to take
advantage of the connectivity."
The project is exciting, Braun said, "because it's an
interdisciplinary effort to design a network that -- though
experimental -- is robust enough to be relied upon by researchers
under even very adverse conditions, including catastrophic
earthquakes. HPWREN is developing such a system for geophysicists,
astronomers and ecologists, while demonstrating that the same tools
can connect under-served educational users at remote locations like
the Pala and La Jolla reservations."
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)