WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) applauded $23 million in rural broadband grants to communities across New Mexico from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grants are part of the first wave of ReConnect pilot program funding increased by Congress in the CARES Act to improve rural broadband access for unserved and underserved areas across the country.
The Pueblo of Acoma will receive a $942,955 grant, Peñasco Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. will receive a $3.1 million grant and Plateau will receive a $19.2 million grant. The recipients will use the funds to invest in broadband networks that will connect communities across 16 counties to broadband Internet. Congress provided $100 million in additional funding to the ReConnect program in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that the New Mexico delegation voted to pass at the end of March. The grant recipients will connect more than 2,200 households to broadband with the funding.
“Broadband internet is fundamental to economic growth and a building block of today’s society,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee overseeing funding for USDA. “And broadband internet is more critical than ever for Tribes and rural communities in New Mexico as communities across the state and nation stay home to do their part in slowing the spread of coronavirus. I have fought hard to provide the funding Tribes and New Mexico communities need for the ReConnect program and continue to work toward universal internet connectivity in New Mexico and the United States. That’s also why I partnered with my colleagues across the aisle to fund rural broadband in the CARES Act, and why I will be working hard to make sure that we give Tribes and rural communities the resources they need to stay connected during this challenging time.”
“The lack of universal access to broadband internet service created an uneven playing field in rural communities long before this public health crisis,” said Heinrich. “Students need the internet to learn and do homework, small businesses and entrepreneurs need to communicate with customers, and patients in rural communities need reliable access to critical telemedicine services. I am proud to welcome this funding that we secured in the CARES Act to finally expand broadband services to these rural and tribal communities, and will keep fighting to connect every single household and community in New Mexico to this essential service."
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband is especially crucial to access up-to-date public health information and resources for our students. As a member of House Leadership, I worked with my colleagues to include legislation that will bolster broadband across rural and Tribal communities in a legislative plan that will help connect all Americans to affordable internet. Less than half of rural New Mexicans have access to broadband. I remain strongly committed to bridging this digital divide and making robust investments to improve our public health response and lay the foundation for our economic recovery,” said Luján.
“Broadband internet access is imperative during this pandemic, but Tribal and rural areas lack access to high speed internet which limits access unemployment insurance, small business loans and remote education. That’s why I am glad that the funding we put into the CARES Act will ensure that thousands of New Mexico households will gain access to broadband internet as part of the ReConnect program. Increasing access to broadband for communities will unlock opportunities and it’s one of my focuses as we continue to address this pandemic,” said Haaland.
“COVID-19 proves why access to good, reliable internet is critical for our communities. It can make the difference for New Mexicans having access to tele-healthcare; small businesses navigating online applications for COVID-19 relief or offering their services or products online; and kids working hard on their school work with their teacher on the other side of a screen. This funding takes a significant step towards increasing access to broadband across central and southern New Mexico, including for our tribes and Pueblos, and more short-term, will help connect families to the resources they need during this public health emergency and beyond,” said Torres Small.
The full breakdown of the $23,337,472 in funding is below:
The Pueblo of Acoma will invest a $942,955 grant to help provide fixed wireless broadband. Currently, the area completely lacks sufficient access to broadband service. Providing broadband will fuel long-term economic development and job opportunities in the service area, which includes 771 households spread over 22 square miles in Cibola County.
The Peñasco Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. will use a $3.1 million grant to deploy a fiber broadband network. The service area includes 659 households spread over 363 square miles in Lincoln, Otero, Chaves, and Eddy counties.
Plateau will use a $19.2 million grant to help build a fiber-to- the-premises (FTTP) network serving farms, businesses and critical community facilities in rural areas in New Mexico. The service area includes 789 households and three critical community facilities spread over 13 counties and 4,292 square miles. The funds will allow Plateau to expand broadband service to the remaining 10 percent of current members who currently do not have broadband. The 13 counties that will be served include Harding, Curry, Socorro, Chaves, De Baca, Lincoln, Torrance, Quay, Santa Fe, Guadalupe, Colfax, Union and San Miguel.