Rep. Xochitl Torres Small announced over $23 million in coronavirus relief funding will go towards improving rural broadband access throughout New Mexico.
The funding from the federal government is part of the first wave of the ReConnect pilot program, which supports construction and improvement of the facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband in rural areas. Most of this funding will go towards areas in need in central and southern New Mexico.
Improving the access to the internet is critical to bridge the digital divide for students. Improved access to the internet will make virtual learning while schools are closed easier for students and improve residents’ access to reliable information.
The recipients of the money include the Pueblo of Acoma, Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative and Plateau, New Mexico. They will use the funding to invest in broadband networks that will connect communities to broadband internet.
Some of the areas getting funding completely lack sufficient access to broadband service. According to Torres Small’s office, some of the money will go towards creating a fiber broadband network and a fiber-to-the-premises network to serve farms and businesses in the area.
In total, Congress allocated about $100 million to the ReConnect program and they expect the funding to help connect thousands of residents with access to the internet.
“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,” said Torres Small in a statement.
“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.”
The funding will help improve internet access to more than 18 counties in New Mexico.