The availability of broadband and high-speed internet in the Northern Mariana Islands (NMI) is complex and ambiguous. Estimates of how many residents even have connections at all are sparse and varying. The federal government estimates that 98% of NMI citizens live in areas where high-speed internet is available, but as to how many actually have high-speed internet, a figure is “not currently available.” What’s more, data estimates are marred by misreporting and uncertainty. Internet service providers in American Samoa, for example, reported all households as having high-speed internet access without knowing whether each did.
In light of these challenges, the Northern Mariana Islands government, in conjunction with the federal government, has taken action to tackle internet access in the commonwealth directly. In April, Governor Arnold Palacios (I) appointed a Special Assistant for Broadband Policy and Development to better standardize and coordinate infrastructure rollouts for the islands. And President Joe Biden (D) has made high-speed internet access a priority.
As a part of this agenda, the Department of Commerce announced Broadband Equity Access and Deployment, a $42 billion program to expand high-speed internet access across the country. In May, this program allocated the Northern Mariana Islands $1.5 million to deploy broadband in the islands, and in June, the National Telecommunications and Internet Agency announced the islands would be receiving an additional $80 million in funds for the same purpose.
These investments, President Biden and Governor Palacios hope, will fill the paucity of high-speed broadband access in the Northern Mariana Islands.