A top official with the Acoma Pueblo is hopeful the tribe’s poor internet capabilities will soon “be a thing of the past.”
The federal government on Thursday announced the tribe has been awarded $14.3 million for a broadband project. The money is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is rolling out a total of $65 billion to bring high-speed internet to underserved communities, said Ryan Berni, a senior advisor for infrastructure implementation for the White House.
“The Pueblo of Acoma is very honored to receive the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grant, which will help advance the tribe’s technological environment, improve communication, and provide reliable internet services for our people,” Acoma’s 2nd Lt. Gov. Douglas Patricio said in a statement. “The days of poor to no-service availability will be a thing of the past, and we can catch up with today’s technology.”
Berni said about one-third of Indian Country across America doesn’t have access to high-speed internet.
“The pandemic showed us that high speed internet is a necessity now,” Berni said. “And so we’re really focused on how to connect all areas of the country, especially those that are unserved right now by high speed internet.”
Berni said the tribe previously put out a notice of funding opportunity to receive bids for the project.
It wasn’t clear who will be the contractor for the project. Acoma officials didn’t return a request for comment on Thursday.
The project will ultimately provide internet services to 1,160 households, according to the White House.
The federal government on Thursday also announced funding for a similar broadband project for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota.
“Tribal communities often face high barriers to Internet adoption that hinder their ability to thrive in the modern digital economy,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson. “Today’s grants to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Pueblo of Acoma will reduce these barriers for more than 1,500 Tribal households, connecting them to economic and educational opportunities that many of us take for granted.”
Signed into law in 2021, the infrastructure law will provide $550 billion over fiscal years 2022 through 2026 on various types of infrastructure across the country. All together, New Mexico is slated to receive $2.6 billion for different projects.
Some of the local projects that have been announced include $14 million in improvement at the Albuquerque International Sunport and $11.5 million for a trail project in and around Downtown.