PuebloConnect: Expanding Internet Access and Content Relevance in Tribal Communities
Lead PI:
Elizabeth Belding

Our research addresses the dual goals of improving Internet access in economically marginalized communities while also building local capacity towards regular digital content creation. We focus on Native American reservation communities, which have among the lowest Internet availability rates in the nation. Our work will develop new network technologies to enable reservation residents to meaningfully participate in the Internet, as both consumers and producers of Internet content, in order to create new opportunities for economic development. To ensure the success of our technical work, we will engage community members in the planning, implementation, and dissemination of our research. Our team is partnered with non-profit, Native-serving, and community organizations that are actively working to solve digital inequities.

To create a more usable Internet, we comprehensively rethink middle- and last-mile network technologies to offer adaptive, smart connectivity. Our fundamental contributions include: the disaggregation of control and data planes and a new content upload and download platform that bridges the gap between the network core and end system devices via a smart middle mile; Television (TV) spectrum white space pilot link deployments and network management solution and to study usability in rural regions; and collaboration with community partners through a participatory action research protocol to identify digital information needs and develop a framework for Web-design training to increase the Internet presence of Native-owned organizations. Because Native American reservations share many geographical and population density characteristics with other rural regions, many aspects of our work will be applicable to extending the reach and usability of the Internet to other, non-Native communities within the U.S.

Elizabeth Belding
Elizabeth M. Belding is a Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prof. Belding's research focuses on mobile and wireless networking, including network performance analysis, and information and communication technologies for development (ICTD). She is a co-developer of the AODV routing protocol for mobile networks, on which 802.11s and Zigbee technologies are based in part. The original AODV paper published in WMCSA'99 received the 2018 ACM SIGMOBILE Test of Time Award. Prof. Belding applies her wireless network expertise to a wide range of contexts, and is particularly interested in measuring, mapping, and improving fixed and mobile Internet accessibility in unserved and underserved communities worldwide. Her past ICTD projects have included work in Zambia, South Africa, Mongolia, refugee camps and, most recently, Native American communities around the US. In addition to this work, she is currently very interested in and engaged with efforts to accurately measure and quantify fixed and mobile broadband deployments in the U.S. She is currently co-leading the Marconi Society's 2030 Digital Equity Working group titled "Ensuring Effective Broadband Assessment, Measurement and Mapping." She is the founder and director of the Mobility Management and Networking (MOMENT) Laboratory. Prof. Belding is the author of over 150 technical papers on wireless networking and has served on over 80 conference technical program committees. She was Vice Chair of the UCSB Computer Science department 2009-15 and 2017-19. She is currently the inaugural Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the UCSB College of Engineering. Prof. Belding is an ACM Fellow, AAAS Fellow and IEEE Fellow. She is particularly proud of receiving the UCSB Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award in 2012 and the NCWIT Harrold and Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award in 2015 for her mentorship of graduate students.
Performance Period: 10/01/2018 - 09/30/2022
Institution: University of California-Santa Barbara
Award Number: 1831698