Grants to expand access to more than 13,400 homes, businesses, communities

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday announced the recipients of $38.6 million in funding through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program, the state’s most ambitious broadband expansion effort in history. The initial funding is being matched by $28.3 million in nonstate funding for a total investment of $66.9 million, with plans to expand access to more than 13,400 homes, businesses, farms, ranches and community institutions across New Mexico. 

The funds are the first of $120 million delivered through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program, advancing the governor’s priority of ensuring statewide broadband access. Once expanded beyond the pilot phase, the program will leverage historic state and federal broadband investments to improve access through a state matching grant program that pairs state and federal funding with local vision and experience from communities, tribes, and New Mexico broadband providers.

“Connect New Mexico is focused on expanding access to health care, education, and economic opportunity by delivering broadband to New Mexico communities – because in the 21st century, internet access is essential infrastructure,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. ”Improving that access opens so many doors – empowering students to easily complete homework assignments at home, small local businesses to sell products online, rural New Mexicans to take advantage of telehealth services, and more. This work has never been more urgent, and we look forward to making the Connect New Mexico vision a reality throughout our state. I’m grateful to New Mexico’s congressional delegation for their work in securing these federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act.”

Initial grants were awarded to a diverse group of recipients, with projects supporting fully scalable broadband infrastructure that will serve their communities for decades into the future.

“The first wave of Connect New Mexico Pilot Program grants will expand broadband infrastructure to bring resources to communities that need it most, laying a foundation for continued economic growth,” said Office of Broadband Access and Expansion Director Kelly Schlegel. ”Access to high-speed, reliable internet is essential for households and businesses across our state, and under the governor’s leadership, we are creating a roadmap for our state to build 21st-Century communities. Throughout this historic, multi-year build, the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion is committed to ensuring this program benefits those that need it most – boosting education, jobs, and economic opportunity for all of New Mexico in the process.”

“New Mexico is laying the groundwork for reducing the digital divide in our state by making reliable and affordable high-speed Internet available in communities where it’s not accessible,” said Connect New Mexico Council Interim Chair Kimball Sekaquaptewa. ”For those on the wrong side of the digital divide, today begins our march toward universal access to fast, reliable, and affordable Internet for all New Mexicans.” 

Internet access is essential to community and socio-economic development in the State of New Mexico, and the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program responds to the needs of key industries and business sectors that face a lack of access due to several factors, including their location.

“We greatly appreciate the funding support from the Office of Broadband and the State of New Mexico,” said Socorro Electrical Cooperative General Manager Joseph Herrera. “This pilot project is a game changer for the Village of Magdalena and Magdalena Municipal School District, as approximately 300 homes, businesses, and institutions that are currently unserved will leapfrog from speeds less than 25/3 Mbps to symmetrical 1 Gbps, and potentially faster in the future as demand for high bandwidth-consuming applications grows.”

“Ethos Broadband is thrilled to expand our current Sierra County fiber-to-the-premise project to reach households and businesses in major portions of Truth or Consequences and Williamsburg,” said Nectarios “Neo” Nicolaou, Sacred Wind CEO. “Ethos Broadband’s state-of-the-art fiber network will provide unserved and underserved customers with broadband access speeds of up to symmetrical 1 Gbps. Once both projects are completed, Sierra County will be regarded as one of the most “wired” rural counties in New Mexico. This robust network will allow the people of these communities to access online resources like telehealth, distance learning, and remote work opportunities. It will also greatly enhance efforts to promote the economic growth of the area.”

Grant applications were reviewed and evaluated on a competitive basis, with proposals evaluated in eight categories: broadband impact, community support, economic efficiency, project readiness, organizational qualifications, marketing and services strategy, adoption assistance programs and project sustainability.

“Central New Mexico Electric, Inc. was formed by its members to strengthen the rural areas in which it operates,” said Alena Brandenberger, CEO of Central New Mexico Electric Cooperative. “With the vision of serving and strengthening our families, schools and businesses while promoting value-added growth, we at the Cooperative are excited for the opportunity and privilege to safely provide reliable, affordable broadband service.”

“Comcast appreciates the opportunity to partner with the New Mexico Connect Pilot Program to bring fiber broadband service to thousands of unserved homes and community locations in Doña Ana County,” said Chris Dunkeson, Area Vice President for Comcast in New Mexico. “In partnership with the county, dozens of community-based organizations and broadband advocates, Comcast is committed to the holistic approach needed to close the digital divide in this area which includes access, adoption, affordability, and ongoing education. We look forward to working with the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion to improve connectivity in New Mexico.” 

Applications are now being accepted through Dec. 9, 2022, for the second wave of funding and through Feb. 27, 2023, for the third and final wave of funding. Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Applications received in one wave that do not receive funding will automatically be considered for the next wave of funding.

The New Mexico Office of Broadband Access and Expansion, in collaboration with the Connect New Mexico Council, anticipates launching the full Connect New Mexico Broadband Grant Program, as outlined in the Connect New Mexico Act, in early 2023. For more on these and other grant programs, please visit the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion.