Albuquerque, New Mexico – New Mexico ranks 42nd in the country for broadband connectivity. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the reality of this low standing with more children learning online and the increase in remote work. Over the past decade, state lawmakers have taken steps toward improving New Mexico’s low standing in broadband, but the state still has a high percentage of its population underserved. Viante New Mexico is taking a new approach to looking at broadband to encourage bipartisanship, broad impact, and collaboration.
“New Mexico is the 5th largest state in the country, but our internet connectivity lags among our peer states,” said Viante’s Executive Director, Rhiannon Samuel. “In the 21st century where access to sufficient broadband means access to employment and education, it is critical that our legislators intelligently prioritize this issue. Studies and reviews on this topic have already been done, the time to act is now.”
Starting in the 2021 Legislative Session, Viante will evaluate all broadband bills under the same, common ground criteria: does it fund staff to facilitate and coordinate broadband requests, measure the success of the efforts, and forecast future needs and opportunities. Recent broadband reports from the State Department of Information and Technology and the Legislative Finance Council have found deficiencies and opportunities within the current network as well as a path forward to address this growing crisis. Both reports cite that New Mexico has fewer state employees than other states who are solely responsible for broadband implementation and coordination. The reports go on to estimate that the cost for full implementation of broadband could be anywhere between $2-5 billion, but the cost could be covered by federal grants if better coordination were conducted between various projects while leveraging the existing network.
Broadband directly impacts nearly every aspect of New Mexican’s daily lives. Therefore Viante has partnered with several businesses, organizations, and nonprofits representing a wide range of interest areas to advocate to lawmakers to work together to have a tangible and positive impact on the improvement of the state’s existing broadband network and its expansion. The growing list of Viante partners can be found at: https://viantenm.org/broadband-internet-in-new-mexico/.
“Upgrading New Mexico’s broadband network is a nonpartisan issue,” explained Viante’s Co-Chair, Dale Armstrong. “We cannot afford to allow it to be politized and gridlocked. We must work together to propel New Mexico into the future and advocate for our elected leaders to do the same.”
As broadband bills are introduced in the 2021 Legislative Session they will be analyzed by Viante using pre-determined common ground criteria. Findings will be shared with the pubic and legislators at www.VianteNM.org/broadband.