Jemez Pueblo connects to high-speed internet - Albuquerque Journal

Jemez Pueblo connects to high-speed internet

Nerissa Whittington, founder of bigbyte.cc, gives a tour of the Albuquerque data center to Jemez Pueblo Second Lt. Gov. Kirt Mora, Gov. David Toledo, First Lt. Gov. Michael Chinana and New Mexico Indian Affairs Department Secretary Lynn Trujillo on Friday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Jemez Pueblo Gov. Michael Toledo Jr. walked down rows of computer servers, colorful cables, blinking lights and whirring fans at the bigbyte.cc Data Center in Downtown Albuquerque on Friday.

An hour drive away, a smaller set of equipment and towers was connecting nearly 500 Jemez Pueblo homes to high-speed internet for the first time through a fiber-optic network.

The bigbyte center houses the new Jemez Pueblo Tribal Network, which has connected 500 homes to high-speed internet. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“This is a big moment,” Toledo said. “For years our tribal leaders, the governors, tribal council, and directors from our departments have been planning how to get internet service to our people.”

The new tribally owned Jemez Pueblo Tribal Network also connects government offices and departments.

COVID relief funded project

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a $4.8 million project to upgrade the pueblo’s internet was just a five-year plan on paper.

A flood of federal and state relief money made the project a reality.

“It’s really about location,” Toledo said. “Jemez didn’t have the resources to get fiber all the way to us, and we don’t really have a way to generate our own funding. This project was shovel ready. The need was there, and then that money became available.”

The Jemez Tribal Council approved a total of $2 million for the project from the tribe’s allocation of federal CARES Act funds.

New Mexico directed $1.4 million from its state CARES Act allocations, and the project received $1.3 million in state capital outlay funds.

Private grants funded the remainder of the project.

Fast internet for libraries, schools, homes

The pueblo-wide project expands on a program to connect Jemez schools and libraries to high-speed internet.

A Federal Communications Commission E-rate program directed about $4 million from 2016 to 2018 for fiber infrastructure in two schools and six libraries at Jemez, Zia, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, San Felipe and Cochiti pueblos.

The program’s success prompted tribal leaders to think of a way to connect the rest of the tribal community, said Kevin Shendo, Jemez Pueblo education director.

“It’s night and day,” Shendo said of the new internet. “It’s redefining the digital landscape of our community. The beauty of it is that we own the network. We are able to have control over the service and the speeds that we provide.”

About 3,000 people live on Jemez Pueblo in Sandoval County.

The project will also bring high-speed internet to Jemez students and families who live just outside of reservation boundaries.

Nerissa Whittington, bigbyte founder and owner, said on-site amplifying equipment helps bring strong internet the long distance to Jemez.

“This is next-generation technology for the next generation,” she said. “It’s especially important at this time when so many people need to be working from home.”

The main distribution frame at the Albuquerque data center is mirrored by a smaller piece of equipment at Jemez Pueblo.

A new tower distributes the wireless signal to the community. Each home is set up with a receiver and modem to connect to the internet.

The data center also provided training space for the Jemez team as they prepared to roll out the internet network. The company i9 Technologies assisted with the program’s engineering and deployment.

Opening doors

The pandemic has closed or restricted schools and businesses and canceled events across New Mexico to prevent spread of the virus.

Michael Chinana, Jemez Pueblo first lieutenant governor, said the restrictions and closures severely affected pueblo residents who did not have any internet in their homes.

“This broadband just opens up a bunch of doors for our artists, for our children, for our business people, for those people who have been laid off from restaurants, casinos, hotels that closed,” Chinana said. “Now that a lot of them are looking at working from home, this internet opens up that capability.”

About half of households on tribal land have basic broadband access, according to the FCC.

The Jemez internet project could be a model for other pueblos and rural communities, said Lynn Trujillo, cabinet secretary for the state Indian Affairs Department.

“The pueblo did an incredible job of planning and preparing for the time when the funds would become available,” Trujillo said. “It’s a total package that covers everything from infrastructure to workforce. I think that’s really promising and empowering, and it could be replicated elsewhere. We just need funding.”

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Jemez Pueblo connects to high-speed internet


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
American Airlines plane evacuated at Albuquerque Sunport
ABQnews Seeker
An American Airlines flight from Texas ... An American Airlines flight from Texas to New Mexico was evacuated Sunday after landing at the Albuquerque airport because of a security threat, authorities ...
2
APD investigates 'suspicious death' on West Side
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are investigating an apparent ... Albuquerque police are investigating an apparent homicide on the city's West Side. Around 7:40 a.m. Sunday, Albuquerque Fire Rescue notified police about a person ...
3
Renters seek city assistance amid soaring costs
ABQnews Seeker
Rent for 1-bedroom apartments up 42% ... Rent for 1-bedroom apartments up 42% since pandemic began
4
No strings attached to capital funds for APS this ...
ABQnews Seeker
Analysts have also floated the idea ... Analysts have also floated the idea of partially or completely forgiving offsets
5
Santa Fe journalist chosen to speak at Dixon Awards
ABQnews Seeker
Transparency awards luncheon set for Thursday Transparency awards luncheon set for Thursday
6
Take note: Balloon Fiesta is a no-drone zone
ABQnews Seeker
Drone-detection service to monitor the skies ... Drone-detection service to monitor the skies for unauthorized fliers
7
Lawmakers focus on prescribed burns after disastrous fire season
ABQnews Seeker
Expert notes that ecosystems that are ... Expert notes that ecosystems that are 'ecologically out of whack' must
8
Video released of June police shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Officers involved have been returned to ... Officers involved have been returned to duty, APD says
9
Rent relief has helped over 41K ABQ residents
ABQnews Seeker
State funds paired with federal funding ... State funds paired with federal funding provided $185.5M