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Infrastructure funds bring $40 million in grants to help rural areas in New Mexico get online

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited New Mexico Monday, where he announced that the department will be investing $40 million to provide high-speed internet access in rural areas of New Mexico. This has the potential to connect many communities for the first time.

These grants will help provide high-speed internet access to people in rural areas by running fiber optic cables directly from the internet provider to a customer's home or business. This helps overcome one of many gaps in building out broadband identified by state officials in a report earlier this year.

The $40 million in grants comes from the ReConnect Program which in its fourth round of funding the state’s broadband infrastructure.

Reconnect is funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is providing $65 billion dollars to expand high-speed internet across the U.S. Vilsack says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has invested over $1.7 billion dollars in New Mexico since the beginning of the Biden-Harris Administration into the program.

The ReConnect Program will also be working with the Western New Mexico Telephone Company Inc. to provide lower-cost for broadband in rural areas with some customers only having to pay thirty five dollars a month.

The agriculture secretary also said his department has initiatives to help farmers find new market strategies, learn climate smart practices, and make their land available for environmental research. But all that hinges on one thing:

"They have to have access to broadband," he said. 

John Diamond is a farmer from Beaverhead whose family lacked even a landline phone. He moved closer to Elephant Butte and Truth or Consequences so he could use high-speed internet and cell phones for his business.

"No zip code should determine your lifestyle," he said.

Now through these newly established grants, his county will get connected.

Vilsack ended with a promise, “you know you folks are the enchanted land, but now you're going to be the connected land.”

Vilsack’s visit is one of many around the country by officials in the Biden Administration highlighting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will be in the state Tuesday.

Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s a former Local News Fund Fellow. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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