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Editorial: Broadband bills provide road maps to connectivity

With $325 million already down the tubes, we’re hopeful a broadband internet bill unanimously passed by a House committee Monday and headed to the House floor really will deliver results this time.

House Bill 10, the Connect New Mexico Act, would establish a centralized Office of Broadband within the Department of Information Technology charged with coordinating state, local and federal resources to build new infrastructure. The bill calls for mapping out the state’s broadband infrastructure and determining what it will take to get quality internet service to every New Mexico community.

It’s long overdue. Legislative analysts say the state and federal governments funded about $325 million in broadband projects in New Mexico in a recent four-year period, but it’s hard to track the money and ensure accountability.

From remote learning to telemedicine, never has internet connectivity been more important. Around 76,000 New Mexico students don’t have internet service at home. They have literally been disconnected for a year.

Senate Bill 93, the creation of Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, is a similar broadband bill that was to be heard in committee Monday.

Viante, a nonpartisan government accountability group, reports 22% of the state is underserved by broadband. Some areas of Socorro County are without service.

Viante estimates it will cost between $2 billion and $5 billion to adequately connect all of New Mexico. It’s important we get bang for our tax bucks and don’t invest in antiquated technology or pieces that don’t talk to one another to get there.

A comprehensive study showing our specific needs, along with oversight on the mechanisms to resolve them, is critical for our road map to connectivity.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.