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Rep. Luján introduces broadband legislation

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján has introduced legislation that could bring broadband service to rural parts of New Mexico where residents have little or no internet.

The 3rd Congressional District lawmaker is a sponsor of a legislative package that would provide $5 billion in federal funding for low-interest financing to support broadband infrastructure deployment, including in rural communities, and require improved mapping of communities’ access to broadband.

“Only 47% of New Mexico has access to high-speed internet,” he told the Journal. “In tribal areas, only 36% have access.”

Under the Broadband Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, public-private partnerships can apply for secured loans, lines of credit, or loan guarantees for broadband infrastructure investments. The Map Improvement Act of the package would ensure investments in broadband infrastructure are targeted to the areas that need it most – including rural communities – by establishing more reliable coverage maps and data that accurately depict what people are experiencing, Luján said.

“The (Federal Communications Commission) really hasn’t done a good job mapping areas that have little or no access to broadband internet,” he said.

Luján said the legislation could help bridge a digital divide that limits education and economic opportunities in many rural and tribal areas.

“Broadband connectivity can make all the difference for education, public safety, and economic opportunities,” he said.

Luján said many students in rural and tribal areas have to go to libraries and parking lots in areas with greater internet access to do homework assignments.

“More and more schools require students to do research over the internet when doing homework,” he said. “This would give them the tools to do their work at home.”

He said having additional internet connectivity could help law enforcement in a case such as the disappearance Ashlynn Mike. An Amber Alert wasn’t issued until more than 10 hours after she disappeared. She was later found murdered.

GRANTS ADDRESS WOLF ATTACKS: U.S. Rep Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., announced $140,000 in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grants to assist New Mexican livestock producers in preventing losses from Mexican gray wolf activity and funding to compensate them if prevention is not successful. New Mexico will receive $80,000 in Depredation Compensation Grant awards and $60,000 in Depredation Prevention Grant awards.

The grants assist livestock producers in undertaking proactive, non-lethal activities to reduce the risk of livestock loss from predation by wolves and compensate producers for livestock losses caused by wolves.

“New Mexico’s ranchers and livestock producers play a crucial role in our state’s economy,” Torres Small said. “The loss of income caused by wolf activity is a concern I often hear from my constituents, especially those in Catron County. These latest grants will ensure that they are provided with the funds they need to both protect their source of income and the wildlife that also calls New Mexico home.”

HAALAND PAYS RESPECTS IN EL PASO: U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., visited El Paso on Wednesday to stand in solidarity against bigotry and hate and demand common sense solutions to gun violence, her office said.

The trip followed the mass shooting that took 22 lives at a Walmart in the border city last Saturday. Haaland attended the Border Action Network’s community action event and went to the memorial at the store site to meet with those mourning the loss of their community members.

“These heinous acts of domestic terrorism have shaken our communities at their core, but El Paso has shown that we are resilient and strong,” Haaland said. “We cannot keep reliving this nightmare. No one should have to live it. We’re calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate back in session and vote on the bills to address gun violence that House passed in February.”

Scott Turner: