NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –The state says one in five New Mexicans – or more than 400,000 people – don’t have the internet access they need to conduct their daily business. Tuesday, the state got $5.7 million in the form of a federal grant to help tackle the problem and create a game plan to get internet throughout the state.
“Usually with grants, there are no or very few planning dollars allotted,” says Barbara Cottam with the National Telecommunications Administration. “This is a grant specifically for planning. This will help the New Mexico State Broadband office develop their plan, hire staff, consultants, engage the community, get the resources they need to put their plan together.”
Once the state broadband office creates the plan and submits it, New Mexico would be eligible for at least $100 million more to actually get the ball rolling. In the past year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has invested more than $150 million in New Mexico for various projects, put towards the goal of internet for all.
Including other federal funding and money from nonprofits, New Mexico has gotten around $300 million towards promoting connectivity. “It’s a necessity. Before it was maybe a luxury, now we’re into everybody’s got to have it to do their work and to do their fun and to do their family,” says Kelly Schlegel, New Mexico broadband director.
Once the $100 million is awarded, the state has five years to use it towards its projects. Officials tell KRQE it can cost up to $5,000 to run broadband to a rural home. They estimate it will take $5 billion to connect all of New Mexico.
The state office of broadband access and expansion is asking for the public’s help to update New Mexico’s Internet Access Map to qualify for more funding.