StrongHearts Native Helpline: Connectivity changes put Native people at risk –

February 17, 2022 by No Comments

Photo courtesy StrongHearts Native Helpline

How will the expansion of 5G impact Native American and Alaska Native domestic violence victims?

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

By StrongHearts Native Helpline

5G is here and many Americans are excited about faster internet speeds and the ability to be more connected than ever before. But the advantages of the new 5G connectivity won’t be felt as quickly — if at all — by those who live outside urban areas in rural and remote parts of the country, such as Native reservations.

By the end of 2022, U.S. wireless carriers will have completed shutdowns of their 3G data networks. It’s already started. Sprint’s 3G stopped on January 1. AT&T’s 3G will shut down on February 22. Verizon’s 3G will end on December 31. A complete list of shutdown dates and carriers can be found here.

How will the loss of the ability to use 3G technology affect Native victims of domestic violence? They may have access to 5G but no 5G-compatible phones or devices due to the high cost to replace old, outdated ones. Or they may have no access to 5G and no access to 5G phones and devices and, therefore, will be completely cut off from service. Whether or not Native people are living on reservations or in urban areas, the loss of 3G has the potential to be detrimental and even life-threatening.

Even if our relatives are connected to 5G networks, here’s a short list of devices and services currently in use that won’t work with 5G:

  • 3G or older phones (won’t be able to call or text)
  • Security systems
  • Personal alarm devices
  • Medical alert devices
  • Interior car navigation devices
  • Ankle monitors used by law enforcement to keep track of parolees
  • Websites and apps that use a cellular connection
  • 911 calls

Many domestic violence organizations give people old phones that don’t have service, since older phones have still been able to make 911 calls. However, these older phones will now be obsolete and there will be no way for people to call or text.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives are the most vulnerable to domestic violence with more than 1.5 million Native women and 1.4 million Native men experiencing violence during their lifetime, often by non-Native perpetrators, according to the National Institute of Justice. In a 5G world where there exists the likelihood of a domestic violence victim being unable to seek help is very real and extremely frightening.

And there’s more to this picture. Without a doubt, the end of 3G will also widen the gap between higher income and low-income individuals who can’t afford the upgrade to 5G compatible devices and other smart 5G technology. As a segment of the U.S. population, Native peoples are still at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder due to the effects of centuries of colonization. This includes neglect by the U.S. federal government, which has bred a continuing cycle of poverty and economic disparity.

So for many Native Americans, the cost of a new smart phone or device is out of reach. Digital …….



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