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USDA Announces Broadband Infrastructure Grants for Rural New Mexico Towns

Elijah Labby

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Screenshot of Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue from the webinar

May 6, 2020 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced $23 million in grant investments for rural broadband infrastructure in New Mexico on Tuesday.

The three recipients, Pueblo of Acoma, Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative and ENMR Telephone Cooperative, will receive the funds through the ReConnect Pilot Program, which seeks to develop broadband access in underserved areas.

“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now,” said Secretary Perdue. “Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children and remote business operations all require access to broadband.”

Pueblo of Acoma will receive a $942,955 grant for repairing existing infrastructure and bridging access gaps. 1st Lt. Governor Pierson Siow expressed gratitude for the grant, saying that it would enable them to “provide high-speed broadband to 95 percent of the community and establish a tribally-owned service provider…helping the Pueblo bridge the digital divide.”

Additionally, Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. and ENMR Telephone Cooperative will receive grants of $3.1 million and $19.2 million respectively. Together, they will use this money to develop fiber broadband networks that will serve more than 1,500 households across more than 4,500 square miles of rural New Mexico.

The USDA has allocated several other grants aimed at expanding rural broadband access. On Sunday, the agency announced that it would extend the Rural Utilities Service Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, which provides technology grants to organizations such as local governments and private corporations, for a second window.

“As we moved through the 60-day application window,” said the USDA Office of Rural Development’s  Richard Anderson, “we had a growing number of e-mails and calls from educational and medical folks who wanted to apply for the program, but due to other demands on their time…were concerned that they wouldn’t have enough time to devote to the application.”

The webinar reviewed eligibility requirements of the program, explained the application process, and highlighted some of the changes to the program, including an available fund of over $24 million for grants and an updated application due date of July 13, 2020.

See the complete webinar, as well as detailed application information.

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