State works on broadband expansion plans before end-of-year federal deadline
With $675 million secured over the summer for internet expansion, New Mexico’s Office of Broadband Access and Expansion is working to make sure it’ll be ready to submit its first proposal about broadband plans in December.
The broadband office must submit an initial proposal to the federal government on how it plans to use the broadband funding by 2024. The agency will get access to about $135 million once the plan is approved, and the rest of the funding will come later as more expansion plans are submitted and approved.
Federal maps show that most of the state has at least some level of internet but not all communities have access to the high speeds needed for basic usage. It’s not uncommon for the state’s rural and tribal areas to lack broadband altogether.
These maps still have errors that state officials are trying to fix, so they’re not completely accurate in showing what areas have reliable internet or any access at all.
The state’s $675 million is coming from the federal Broadband Equity and Access Development Program and will help set up broadband in places with limited or poor access.
The state has been preparing for this funding for over a year.
Last month, per program requirements, the state drafted a five-year plan on goals, challenges and planned implementation for broadband set-up.
Now, the broadband office is meeting up with internet service providers to answer questions and talk about their funding applications, office spokesperson Alison Riley said.
Sandeep Taxali, broadband programs advisor for the state’s broadband office, said at a broadband celebration event on Monday in Jemez Pueblo that this will be the single-largest program ever for broadband expansion.
“We have a lot of work before us,” he said.
This federal program is funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, with $42.45 billion total going around the nation for internet expansion efforts.
It lines up with the Biden administration’s goal to connect all Americans to high-speed internet by 2030.
This article has been updated to correctly reflect Sandeep Taxali’s title with the New Mexico Office of Broadband Access and Expansion.