NTUA data center continues to develop services

Noel Lyn Smith

SHIPROCK — Representatives of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall's office heard today about the improved service one tribal department is receiving from the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority data center here.

Kevin Cummins, left, a senior legislative assistant for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall; Neil Broyles, communications systems manager for the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority; and Cal Curley, a field representative for Udall, take part in a meeting Tuesday at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority's data center in Shiprock.

Kevin Cummins, senior legislative assistant with Udall’s office, said one of the senator's priority areas is rural broadband access and closing the digital divide in Indian Country.

Udall, D-N.M., helped the Navajo Nation leverage a $32 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant in 2010 to expand broadband Internet across the reservation, according to an October 2013 press release from his office.

NTUA spokeswoman Deenise Becenti said the purpose of the visit was to update the senator’s staff about the data center's progress and to show an example of a tribal entity that benefits from the center.

The data center opened in August 2013.

Chris Wright, project manager with the Navajo Nation Department for Self Reliance, said the data center provides technology services for the department, which administers the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grant for the tribe. With up to 4,000 families served by the department each month, reliable computer systems are important for successful customer service, Wright said.

Chris Wright, a project manager with the Navajo Nation's Department of Self Reliance, takes a tour Tuesday of the facilities at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority's data center in Shiprock.

One way the department improved its customer service was by upgrading its computer equipment and systems, he said. Before the change, the department faced issues such as obsolete equipment, poor Internet connectivity, and frequent computer and telephone outages, he added.

"All of these things lead to DSR not being able to serve their clients as they should be," Wright said.

By using the NTUA service, the department receives twice the bandwidth, scheduled outages for upgrades, and equipment replacement and technical support service.

The continued relationship includes expanding services through a new contract, which would assist in plans to add a training center for customer and staff development in Farmington, and implement video conference services, Wright said.

Neil Broyles, communications systems manager with NTUA, said there are a number of tribal entities that use data centers in off-reservation areas, some in locations as far as Kansas.

Daun Johnson, a data center supervisor with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority, leads a tour tour as Cal Curley, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall inspects machinery Tuesday at the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority's data center in Shiprock.

"We're hoping to attract customers like that into our data center because we can provide them a dedicated facility between their location on the network and the data center," Broyles said.

Monroe Keedo, a member of the business development group NTUA Communications Systems, said one of the challenges in increasing the customer base and expanding access on the Navajo Nation is securing rights of way from the tribe because the current process does not address fiber optics and telecommunications.

Upgrading the legal language would require that legislation be proposed to the tribal council, Keedo said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.