$100M heading to rural NM for high-speed internet - Albuquerque Journal

$100M heading to rural NM for high-speed internet

A wireless broadband tower is seen here in Bernalillo. A new $100M funding boost aims to take high-speed internet to rural New Mexico.

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Over $100 million will start flowing into rural New Mexico for a massive effort aimed at boosting the availability of high-speed internet in the state.

The money was included in an infrastructure bill. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-N.M., traveled to Abiquiú Elementary on Monday to announce that Rio Arriba County will receive $23.6 million for a broadband project.

“It’s going to do exactly what we wanted to happen when we passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And that is to make sure that we are taking internet to the communities, to the businesses, to the farmers and to the schools that need it,” Leger Fernández said. “Because, without broadband, you are no longer part of the economy. You’re no longer part of the education system.”

Lawmakers included $65 billion in the infrastructure law to expand affordable, high-speed internet across the U.S.

A spokesman for Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said New Mexico will receive more than $100 million for broadband projects. Those projects include:

• $23.6 million for Kit Carson Electric Cooperative Inc. for a network that connects 2,693 people, 42 businesses, 34 farms and eight educational facilities to high-speed internet in Rio Arriba County.

• $25 million for Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc. to deploy a network to connect 2,970 people and 56 businesses to high-speed internet in Chaves and Lea counties.

• Nearly $35 million for Western New Mexico Telephone Company Inc. to build a network that connects 678 people, 10 businesses and a farm to high-speed internet in Catron, Grant and Hidalgo counties.

• $25 million for WNM Communications Corporation for a network that connects 3,093 people, 30 businesses, five farms and four educational facilities to the internet in Grant and Luna counties.

That’s a total of over $108 million that will be awarded to the four New Mexico-based companies. The money will flow through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Reconnect Loan and Grant Program.

BroadbandNow, an industry website, said that 80.8% of New Mexico residents have access to 100Mbps broadband, ranking the state 43rd in the country.

“It’s a great use of public money because we cannot have an America that grows together if we do not have an America that has equal access to the basic foundations you need in an economy and in education,” Leger Fernández said. “That is simply because we want everybody in America to have the same ability to succeed, regardless of whether you live in Chattanooga or Abiquiú.”

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