Stimulus helps plug NM’s digital divide
State to see $40
million-plus in broadband stimulus funds
New Mexico Business Weekly
by Kevin Robinson-Avila NMBW Staff
Friday, April 2, 2010
Managers at the
Peñasco Valley Telecommunications
Cooperative in Artesia joke that it’s cheaper to
relocate rural families to cities than it is to bring high-speed
Internet to the desert.
Terry Mullins, vice president for
sales and marketing, said the high cost of installing
infrastructure in sparsely populated southeastern
greatly limits Peñasco’s ability to offer broadband there. But
the cooperative just obtained a $4.7 million grant and a $4.8
million loan through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
to extend fiber and wireless technology in its service area.
“It’s an expensive proposition to
lay down fiber in such remote places,” Mullins said. “We cover
such a wide area that we haven’t been able to reach many people.
Without the grant money, we just couldn’t do it.”
Peñasco is one of four in-state
companies to receive stimulus funds for broadband development.
The federal government approved
about $40 million in grants and loans for
in its first round of funding, which concluded in March. That’s
just 13 percent of the $310 million that telecom companies and
state agencies requested in grant applications.
Bowles, Gov. Bill Richardson’s science adviser on loan from
Los Alamos National Laboratory, said
it’s not realistic to expect more, given that the
U.S. Commerce Department
received 1,800 applications for $19 billion in projects
The ARRA earmarked $7.2 billion
for broadband investments, with $3 billion available in the
Still, the loans and grants that
were approved will have a significant impact in
New Mexico, Bowles said. The money will
help link remote zones to a high-speed network the government is
creating statewide through computer centers, or gateways, that
connect to the supercomputer in Rio Rancho.
“We didn’t get nearly what was
requested, but what we did get will allow us to build out
critically needed infrastructure in key areas,” Bowles said.
“The stimulus projects will establish fiber rings in specific
districts. We’ll link up the statewide fiber ring that we’re
building with these smaller, remote fiber rings.”
Valley, three other companies in
western, eastern and northern
New Mexico got stimulus money: