Four recipients of $38.6 million in funding through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program were announced last week by the governor’s office, including Socorro Electric Cooperative.

Along with three other entities, the initial grants were awarded for projects supporting fully scalable broadband infrastructure “that is expected to serve their communities for decades into the future,” the release says.

Socorro Electric’s funding will provide Magdalena and Magdalena Schools with improved internet access and speed, SEC’s General Manager Joseph Herrera said.

“We greatly appreciate the funding support from the Office of Broadband and the State of New Mexico,” Herrera said. “This pilot project is a game changer for the Village of Magdalena and Magdalena Municipal School District, as approximately 300 homes, businesses and institutions that are currently unserved will leapfrog from speeds less than 25/3 Mbps to symmetrical 1 Gbps, and potentially faster in the future as demand for high bandwidth-consuming applications grows.”

Citing what she describes as the state’s most ambitious broadband expansion effort in history,

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “Connect New Mexico is focused on expanding access to health care, education and economic opportunity by delivering broadband to New Mexico communities — because, in the 21st century, internet access is essential infrastructure.”

The initial funding is being matched by $28.3 million in nonstate funding for a total investment of $66.9 million, with plans to expand access to more than 13,400 homes, businesses, farms, ranches and community institutions across New Mexico, the release says.

The funds are the first of $120 million delivered through the Connect New Mexico Pilot Program, advancing the governor’s priority of ensuring statewide broadband access.

Once expanded beyond the pilot phase, the program will leverage historic state and federal broadband investments to improve access through a state matching grant program that pairs state and federal funding with local vision and experience from communities, tribes and New Mexico broadband providers.

“Improving that access opens so many doors — empowering students to easily complete homework assignments at home, small local businesses to sell products online, rural New Mexicans to take advantage of telehealth services, and more,” Lujan Grisham said. “This work has never been more urgent, and we look forward to making the Connect New Mexico vision a reality throughout our state. I’m grateful to New Mexico’s congressional delegation for their work in securing these federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act.”

In addition to SEC, other recipients included Central New Mexico Electric Cooperative to serve Estancia and Mountainair, Ethos Broadband serving Truth or Consequences and Williamsburg, and Comcast in Anthony, Sunland Park, Santa Theresa, and other communities south of Las Cruces.

“The first wave of Connect New Mexico Pilot Program grants will expand broadband infrastructure to bring resources to communities that need it most, laying a foundation for continued economic growth,” Office of Broadband Access and Expansion Director Kelly Schlegel said. “Access to high-speed, reliable internet is essential for households and businesses across our state, and the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion is committed to ensuring this program benefits those that need it most — boosting education, jobs and economic opportunity for all of New Mexico in the process.”

Grant applications were reviewed and evaluated on a competitive basis, with proposals evaluated in eight categories: broadband impact, community support, economic efficiency, project readiness, organizational qualifications, marketing and services strategy, adoption assistance programs and project sustainability.

Applications are now being accepted through Dec. 9, 2022, for the second wave of funding and through Feb. 27, 2023, for the third and final wave of funding. Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis. Applications received in one wave that do not receive funding will automatically be considered for the next wave of funding.