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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sen. Tom Udall Asks Google to Think BIG in Farmington

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has written Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt in support of Think BIG Farmington’s proposal to become a test site for the company’s experimental project for ultra-high speed broadband internet networks in select locations across the country. The project, called Google Fiber for Communities, will test new ways to make broadband internet connections faster and more accessible.

In his letter, Udall highlights Farmington’s collaborative effort to win participation in the company’s experiment and the benefits to San Juan County and parts of the Navajo Nation. He also notes the project’s potential to spur new economic growth, distance learning and telemedicine initiatives which would greatly benefit the region.

“Although Google will receive applications from across the country,” wrote Udall, “I believe Farmington is a perfect place for a trial fiber optic network. Think BIG Farmington’s application is a community-wide effort that that would include towns and rural areas of San Juan county and part of the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico.”

The senator also recalls a visit by former President Clinton to the Navajo Nation in 2000, which he attended. During the visit, President Clinton was introduced to a 13-year-old Navajo named Myra Jodie who had won an iMac computer but lacked a home phone connection and the capability to connect it to the internet.

Today, much of the area still lacks basic and essential services like electricity, water and telephones.

“The Navajo Nation still has some of the lowest telephone and Internet access in the country,” Udall wrote. “The ultra high speed communications network proposed by Think BIG Farmington would help ensure that northwest New Mexico is finally connected.”

Udall is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a strong proponent of increasing broadband infrastructure and access. He has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand internet capabilities -- especially in rural and tribal areas -- through its upcoming National Broadband Plan to grow economic and educational opportunities.

It’s estimated that New Mexico’s broadband connectivity is approximately 15 percent slower than the national average. According to the Kauffman Foundation, the state also ranks 46th in percentage of Internet users.

Click to read the full text (pdf) of Udall’s letter.

March 11, 2010 at 09:32 AM in Native Americans, Rural Issues, Sen. Tom Udall, Web/Tech | Permalink