The Socorro County Commission voted at their last meeting to award Western New Mexico Communications a $250,000 grant to proceed with its project to become a more active broadband service provider for the area.

County Manager Michael Hawkes said money for the WNMC grant comes from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

“This proposed project would allow fiber to connect with and expand on the fiber being put into place for the Midway and San Antonio project,” he said. According to a company spokesperson, this would allow for future broadband deployments along these routes, including fixed wireless and 5G-capable home internet.

WNMC says the first targeted deployment would include a 150-foot tower within the property where WNMC is currently placing its Central Office and building out infrastructure in Socorro’s industrial park.

“With the understanding that providing qualifying broadband can play a significant impact only if the subscribers can afford the product, WNMC participates in the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which offers a monthly discount of up to $30 for qualifying households,” the spokesperson said.

The anticipated cost of the tower construction, including the associated fiber connectivity and equipment to make the above infrastructure build possible, would be in excess of $1 million.

Also at the June 27 meeting, the commission approved a cable television franchise agreement with TDS Metrocom LLC, giving Metrocom a non-exclusive franchise to operate a cable system throughout the unincorporated areas of Socorro County.

In other action, the commission approved Resolution 2023-52, “Supporting State Representative Jones’ Request for the Governor to Deploy the New Mexico National Guard to the Southern Border.”

The resolution states that “the Board of County Commissioners is very concerned about the protection of our border, the citizens of the State and the migrants themselves considering the current drug and human smuggling crisis.”

It says State Rep. Jenifer Jones (Doña Ana, Hidalgo, Luna-R) “has advised the Governor that the current crisis situation demands that all levels of government play an active role in protecting the safety of our state’s population and limiting societal damage caused by the Federal Government’s failure to secure our southern border, and has requested that the State direct its resources to the border immediately.”

The resolution notes that “illegal immigration and drug smuggling is controlled by the cartels who have flooded the United States with deadly fentanyl and created an unimaginable humanitarian crisis through human smuggling.”

The resolution emphasizes the increased availability of fentanyl.

“Experts say fentanyl smuggling increased sharply in recent years. In 2022 alone, the DEA seized more than 50 million fake prescription pills laced with fentanyl along with more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl powder,” it states. “Here in the rural community of Socorro, hardly a day goes by when there is not a report of a drug-related crime or a young person overdosing. Too many times in the last year have we lost our youth to fatal overdoses and seen the consequences of overdose as early as elementary school. The members of this Board are all personally affected and weep at each death.”

Citing Article V, Section 4 of the state constitution (making the Governor commander-in-chief of the military forces), the resolution requests that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declare an emergency and “deploy the National Guard of the State of New Mexico, including the Army National Guard, the Air Guard and the State Defense Force, to Socorro County and the other counties struggling to deal with the crisis to assist the Border Patrol and local law enforcement.”