SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – From kids doing remote learning, to adults working from home, state lawmakers said the pandemic has highlighted the need for broadband internet access in New Mexico. Now, there’s a push at the Roundhouse to expand it. One proposal moving through the Roundhouse would create a central broadband division, trying to make sure every inch of New Mexico is covered.

“We have over 20% of New Mexicans who do not have internet access right now and if you go outside of our major population areas, our rural and remote places, it’s 40% who do not have access,” said Rep. Natalie Figueroa (D- Albuquerque).

Under House Bill 10, it would create the broadband development division within the Department of Information Technology. It would be the center for planning and development for broadband. The division would seek out any financial grants or assistance to help pay for broadband projects. It would also create a plan that looks at the current broadband infrastructure and see what our state needs, as well as bumping up funding from $5 million to $8 million for construction and maintenance of broadband infrastructure.

Local communications companies said what New Mexico has been lacking is a centralized plan to expand broadband from one corner of the state to the other and believe this bill could fix that. “Filling the gaps in New Mexico is daunting and beyond reach of a single company so there is a great need out there,” said John Badal with Sacred Wind Communications. “Customers and community leaders are crying for more broadband.”

Some lawmakers said New Mexicans in more rural parts of the state haven’t had internet access and this bill would address that in more underserved areas. The bill just cleared its second committee unanimously. It now heads to the House floor for debate. This is one of many bills in this session that calls for greater broadband access.