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Monday, August 16, 2010

Udall & Bingaman Host NM Broadband Summit; $73M in Grants, Loans Announced

Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman today co-hosted a New Mexico Broadband & Smart Grid Summit in Moriarty that featured the announcement of more than $73 million in grants and awards to expand broadband services to rural, underserved areas of New Mexico.

More than 300 people attended the summit at the Moriarty Civic Center, according to a statement released by the Senators. The summit included panel sessions featuring experts on the challenges and opportunities facing New Mexico as it works to overcome the digital divide and harness broadband technologies to promote economic growth, energy independence and health care delivery. Udall led the first panel session, titled “Wiring New Mexico for the Future;” while Bingaman led the second panel, titled “Bringing Broadband to Energy -- Smart Grid in New Mexico.”

Funding for Taos, Colfax, Rio Arriba Counties
Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the Rural Electricity Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), also gave a keynote address in which he announced $63.8 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for a broadband infrastructure project that will deliver affordable broadband service to 29 communities in rural, underserved areas of Taos, Colfax and Rio Arriba counties. Kit Carson Electric Cooperative will receive a $44 million grant and a $19 million loan – for a total of $63.8 million – to create the 2,400-mile broadband network, which will connect approximately 20,500 households, 3,600 businesses, 183 critical community institutions and two Native American Pueblos.

“This project will give rural New Mexico residents access to the broadband they need to attract new businesses, jobs, health care and educational opportunities,” Adelstein said. “It will enable Kit Carson to deploy cutting edge smart grid technology that will help cut electric bills and permit sustainable energy development. The Obama Administration understands that bringing broadband to rural New Mexico will give families, businesses and key anchor institutions --- such as schools, libraries and first responders --service that is second to none. This project will create immediate jobs building out the network, and the completed system will provide a platform for economic growth in Northern New Mexico for years to come.”

Additional Funding for Northern NM
Also at the summit, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Deputy Administrator Anna M. Gomez announced a separate, $10.6 million ARRA grant to the North Central New Mexico Economic Development District’s REDI Net project, which will make high-quality broadband services more affordable and accessible to residents, businesses, and public institutions in Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties, northern Santa Fe and five Native American tribal communities.

“Today was a big day for New Mexico,” Udall said. “Not only did we bring experts from across the spectrum together to discuss the challenges our state faces in bridging the digital divide, but we also took an important step forward in connecting our rural areas with the announcement of more than $73 million in grants and loans. Broadband creates jobs. Broadband connects communities. That’s what this summit is about today.”

"New Mexico is poised to be a leader in expanding broadband access and the use of ‘smart grid’ technology to reduce consumers' utility bills, and I believe the summit will help make that a reality," Bingaman said. "The grants announced today show that the federal government can be a very important partner in meeting our state's broadband and smart grid needs."

Congressman Ben Ray Luján also lauded today's recovery announcement for expanded broadband into the northern area of his district.

“I am proud to see Recovery funds supporting much-needed broadband in Northern New Mexico. I commend REDI Net for investing in our communities and connecting our families and small businesses to the world,” Luján said.

Governor Bill Richardson issued a statement saying, “This is a tremendous boost for New Mexico, and especially for our rural residents that often lack access to affordable and high-quality broadband services. This project will create jobs and lead to better opportunities in education and economic development.”

Panelists for Udall’s discussion of “Wiring New Mexico for the Future” included: Dr. Dale Alverson, Director of the Center for Telehealth and Cybermedicine Research at the University of New Mexico; John Badal, Chief Executive Officer of Sacred Wind Communications; Sharon Gillett, Wireline Competition Bureau Chief for the Federal Communications Commission; Dr. Susan Oberlander, State Librarian, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, and Jessica Zufolo, Deputy Administrator, Rural Utility Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Panelists for Bingaman’s discussion of “Bringing Broadband to Energy – Smart Grid in New Mexico” included: Dr. Tom Bowles, Science Advisor for Governor Bill Richardson; Suedeen Kelly, Partner at Patton Boggs LLP; Eric Lightner, Director of the Federal Smart Grid Task Force at the U.S. Department of Energy; Dr. Daniel López, President of New Mexico Tech; Dr. Terry Michalske, Director of Energy and Security Systems at Sandia National Laboratories; and Luis Reyes, Chief Executive Officer of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative.

August 16, 2010 at 05:12 PM in Broadband, Economy, Populism, Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama Administration, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rural Issues, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink

Comments

Under Bush, rural broadband development suffered.

We basically went back to the time around 1900 when technology infrastructure (electric power and telephone service) was deemed only of use for the rich.

Republicans seem to ignore completely that, as the infrastructure was pushed out through Universal Service regulation, middle class prosperity became predominant as the engine of the American economy.

I am glad to see that NM's Senators are pitching for broadband development in the rural areas. This will have a postive impact on the state and the nation for decades to come.

Posted by: Stuart Heady | Aug 16, 2010 10:43:31 PM

It is always interesting to see how much of the 73 million will ultimately go to actual hardware on the ground and payroll for the actual personnel that will install the hardware.

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 17, 2010 12:57:17 PM

Wonderful news. NM is benefiting from these and many other broadband projects getting funding or loans this year. We have a long way to go but this helps. The Republicans wouldn't give a dime to this.

Posted by: Robt. C. | Aug 17, 2010 1:24:30 PM