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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02)

NM Delegation helped secure new grants from USDA’s ReConnect Program to increase service

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), along with U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) applauded over $20 million in rural broadband grants to four New Mexico telecommunications utilities that will connect over 1400 rural households in Sierra, Lea, Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, Otero and Cibola counties with high-speed broadband internet. The New Mexico delegation supported SWCT and Sierra Electric Cooperative (SEC)’s funding application to install broadband infrastructure in an area where 75 percent of the Sierra county population reports lack of access to high-speed broadband services.

The funding is part of the ReConnect program that the New Mexico delegation worked to incorporate in Congress’s FY2020 funding package to improve rural broadband access for unserved and underserved areas across the country. The public-private partnerships and utilities receiving funding will help bridge the digital divide for over 1400 rural homes, businesses, farms, post offices and fire stations across seven New Mexico Counties.

“Broadband internet is more important than ever for rural and Tribal communities in New Mexico as we do our part to slow the spread of coronavirus,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee overseeing funding for USDA. “This grant funding for rural utilities will connect thousands of New Mexicans in rural communities with high-speed internet access. I worked to increase dedicated funding for rural broadband in government funding bills and the CARES Act. I will continue to fight every day to bridge the digital divide for New Mexico communities and Tribes so that no one is left behind in today’s information-based economy.”

“Now more than ever, it is critical that rural and tribal communities in New Mexico have access to broadband services so that they can connect to educational, health, and career-related resources,” said Heinrich. “That is why I have led the charge on legislation that eliminates regulatory burdens and invests in infrastructure necessary to access high-speed broadband. This funding will help New Mexico businesses and communities access the internet, and I will continue fighting for broadband access across our state.”

“COVID-19 has shone a light on the need to address the digital divide in New Mexico. Without the same access to telework, distance learning, telemedicine, and more, New Mexicans living in our rural, Tribal, and underserved communities have been hit especially hard during this pandemic,” said Luján. “That’s why I’m pleased to announce this critical investment from the USDA ReConnect program to connect thousands of New Mexicans to high-speed internet, and it’s why I’ll continue to make access to affordable broadband one of my top priorities in Congress.”

“Good, reliable internet is crucial for communities across New Mexico. It connects small businesses to critical resources, provides a lifeline for patients relying on telehealth for medical care, and helps students continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, underinvestment in our communities continues to leave rural New Mexicans without the high-quality service they need. I’ve been at work with the Delegation and with our providers to ensure our most rural areas have the necessary infrastructure to increase service, and I’m proud to share this grant will connect over 1,400 households, farms, community institutions, and businesses in the district,” said Torres Small

“The internet is a basic necessity, but thousands of New Mexicans in rural areas lack access to broadband internet,” said Haaland, the lead author of the Broadband for All Resolution. “Now more than ever, we need our communities to stay safe, healthy, and connected. Thanks to this rural broadband grant, Sierra County can develop fast, reliable, long-lasting infrastructure so that rural New Mexicans have access to online business opportunities, virtual classes, offices, and healthcare.”

A breakdown of the $20 million in funding is below:

– SWC Telesolutions Inc. will use a $6.1 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the- premises network to connect 1,630 people, 31 businesses, nine farms, five fire stations and two post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Sierra County, New Mexico. The New Mexico delegation supported SWCT and Sierra Electric Cooperative (SEC)’s funding application to install broadband infrastructure in an area where 75 percent of the Sierra county population reports lack of access to high-speed broadband services.

– Leaco Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc. will use a $4.5 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 170 people, 29 farms and five businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Eddy, Chaves and Lea counties in New Mexico.

– Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. will use a $8.1 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 1,173 people, seven farms, six businesses, three fire stations and a post office to high-speed broadband internet in Chaves, Lincoln, Eddy and Otero counties in New Mexico.

– Continental Divide Electric Cooperative Inc. will use a $1.1 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 85 people, four farms and a business to high-speed broadband internet in Cibola County, New Mexico.

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