NM receives more than $100M for rural high-speed internet - Albuquerque Journal

NM receives more than $100M for rural high-speed internet

New Mexico will receive more than $100 million for high-speed internet projects in rural areas, the federal government announced Thursday.

The projects, part of a $401 million national funding announcement, are supported by the U.S. Agriculture Department’s ReConnect program.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters that the money will bring fast internet to rural residents, public schools, farms and businesses.

“Connectivity is a catalyst for economic prosperity anywhere, but it is certainly a catalyst for economic prosperity in rural communities,” Vilsack said.

The USDA says the projects will connect schools to distance learning, expand telemedicine services and give farmers and ranchers technology for more precise land and water management.

New Mexico projects include:

■ $3.7 million grant to Continental Divide Electric Cooperative for Cibola and McKinley counties, including Laguna and Acoma pueblos

■ $11.7 million grant/loan to Tularosa Basin Telephone Company for Lincoln and Otero counties, including the Mescalero Apache Nation

■ $14.7 million grant to ENMR Telephone Cooperative/Plateau for Chaves, Colfax, De Baca, Guadalupe, Harding, Lincoln, San Miguel, Socorro, Torrance and Union counties

■ $28.9 million loan to Peñasco Valley Telephone Cooperative for Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln and Otero counties

■ $44.9 million loan to Valley Telephone Cooperative for southwest New Mexico and southeast Arizona

Rey Berrones, marketing and communications director for the Peñasco Valley Telephone Cooperative, said the company’s project will fund 300 miles of fiber in isolated, rough terrain.

The federal money will bring high-speed internet to nearly 3,000 people, 13 farms, 50 businesses and eight public schools in southeast New Mexico.

“We have been working on this issue for decades, and we’re very excited that, finally, on a federal and a state level, they are recognizing that fast internet is something that is a need for people and not just a luxury,” Berrones said.

The government requires the companies to make the internet programs affordable and reliable.

“We will use the federal funds to help pay for the households that we have identified as being in need,” Berrones said. “We’ve also deployed about five different community WiFi hotspots in those areas that are free to use.”

The ReConnect program is expected to receive a $2 billion boost from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in the coming weeks.

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