ACP Reaches 17 Million, Anchor Association’s Policy Roadmap, New Mexico’s $17M in Broadband Funding

Last month, the Affordable Connectivity Program was announced to have 16 million Americans signed up.

ACP Reaches 17 Million, Anchor Association’s Policy Roadmap, New Mexico’s $17M in Broadband Funding
Photo of Lujan Grisham, from the governor's website.

April 3, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday that 17 million Americans are now on the Affordable Connectivity Program.

The last tally for the broadband subsidy program, which provides a monthly discount of up to $30 and $75 on tribal lands for connectivity, was 16 million announced last month.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the number of new sign-ups was “no small feat” and the commission is continuing to “look for ways to reach more people who could benefit from its support,” including enhancing the application process and improve the customer experience with the program.

The commission has been working to get as many qualified people as possible on the program, principally through its four outreach programs it announced last year and that it recently funded last month.

Anchor association lays out policy roadmap

The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition has outlined its policy roadmap, which lays out its lobby focus for the year.

A press release on Friday said the association will focus on addressing the FCC’s broadband map, which it said excludes anchor institutions; supporting digital equity efforts at federal, state, and local levels; strengthening the E-rate program, which goes to support connectivity in schools and libraries; promoting improvements in the FCC’s Rural Health Care program; and modernizing and strengthening the Universal Service Fund, the umbrella fund that funds those basic telecommunications programs.

The association said it will continue meet and communicate with FCC, the National Telecommunication and Information Administration and congressional leaders on the importance of map coverage and will speak with broadband owners to make their own maps and challenge FCC’s data.

“We are thankful to Congress and the Executive Branch for providing $65 billion in funding for broadband infrastructure for 2023,” said John Windhausen Jr., executive director of the SHLB Coalition, in the release.

“We are also encouraged by the growing recognition that [community anchor institutions] are crucial in closing the digital divide,” Windhausen Jr. added. “However, many challenges remain, including proposed changes to the E-rate competitive bidding process, flaws in the National Broadband Map, lengthy pole attachment disputes, and court challenges to the Universal Service Fund, to name a few.”

An appeals court last week denied a petition challenging the FCC’s administration of the USF. The petition is also before two other appeals courts.

Four service providers receive over $17M to help close digital divide

The Officer of Broadband Access and Expansion of New Mexico announced last week the state would award four internet service providers $17 million for fiber deployment to unserved areas, according to the state office press release.

The funding is being awarded through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program, whose funding comes from the Treasury Department’s Capital Projects Fund.

The four service providers will provide high-speed internet to over 2,500 premises across 10 qualifying rural communities, the announcement said. The receivers include local residents, businesses, community institutions, and farms.

These four providers will contribute an additional $7.4 million for a total project cost of $24.5 million.
“In my State of the State speech, I stressed my steadfast commitment to bring high-speed broadband networks to every unserved and underserved New Mexico community, no matter how rural. These projects showcase that commitment and our broader goal of universal broadband availability across all of New Mexico,” Governor Lujan Grisham said in the release. “Together, we are breaking down the long-standing walls of the digital divide.”

Ethos Broadband will receive $1 million for a fixed wireless service project to reach approximately 435 locations. Tularosa Communications will receive $7.4 million for a fiber deployment project to serve 1048 locations. Western New Mexico Telephone Company will receive $ 5.11 million for fiber deployment project serving 221 locations. Finally, Valley TeleCom Group will receive $3.7 million for a fiber deployment project serving 822 locations.

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