Doña Ana County

COUNTY PARTNERS WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS TO EXPAND BROADBAND ACCESS

COUNTY PARTNERS WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS TO EXPAND BROADBAND ACCESS

Even before the pandemic, Doña Ana County was exploring ways to expand access to broadband, Wi-Fi and the Internet into rural and underserved areas.  Doña Ana Broadband, DAB is a dedicated multi-agency group with representatives from various organizations that has been discussing the needs to expand broadband availability in our community and how to take advantage of grants now available, to further those efforts.

The need is undeniable: New Mexico ranks 49th in broadband access.  In Doña Ana County, households with no internet subscription are estimated at 22% in the Las Cruces Public School District; 38% in the Gadsden Independent School District and 44% in the Hatch Valley Public Schools, according to the Center for Community Analysis website at https://cca.nmsu.edu/.

“Broadband and reliable access to high speed internet are essential infrastructure for our community and a key driver in economic recovery and development,” County Manager Fernando R. Macias said.  “Broadband access is key to education, jobs and economic opportunity, telehealth and even innovation and quality of life.”

Recently, DAB began working with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and a broadband consultant, Magellan Advisors to develop a plan to expand access to high-speed internet, throughout the county. “We want to ensure that all residents, wherever they live, can connect with online resources, any time,” Macias said.

DAB’s goal is to develop a feasible, cost-effective plan that will address any gaps. “Leveraging public-private partnerships to bolster broadband access will help bridge the digital divide and ensure 100% connectivity across New Mexico. I’m proud that Doña Ana County is helping lead the way to connect all New Mexicans to the online world,” Senator Ben Ray Luján said. “As Chair of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, I’ll continue working with local partners to invest in broadband infrastructure across New Mexico.”

The group will seek funding from public and private sources to implement the plan so everyone has reliable access to the internet. The group will look at every aspect of getting people connected, from evaluating whether they have access to broadband infrastructure, to whether they own a computer or if they can afford internet service.

As a community-wide effort, it will take multiple years to design the solution that best fits our community.  “That is why we need to involve everyone who can contribute to its success,” said Bob Bunting, Doña Ana County IT Director and DAB leader.  “That means we will invite a cross-section of the community to join us in this effort.”

New Mexico State University, Doña Ana Community College, the City of Las Cruces, all school districts and the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance are already active participants.  “Very early, we also engaged El Paso Digital, a county-wide coalition of public, private and nonprofit partners dedicated to promoting digital inclusion in the El Paso community. Digital El Paso members graciously share their time, learnings and expertise with us,” Bunting said.

The Dallas Fed will help convene community partners and provide training to help DAB work together, effectively.  Magellan Advisors, working with the Dallas Fed will provide technical help, such as community needs and infrastructure assessments; help analyze different business models and budget options to optimize resources and funds.

“Ultimately, we will leverage Magellan Advisors and all community partners’ contributions in our aim to connect everyone throughout Doña Ana County to affordable, dependable broadband,” Bunting said.

For more information about Doña Ana County, please visit www.donaanacounty.org.

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