Investing in fiber broadband for our future

I am a native son of the Española Valley and a New Mexico state senator. What I want most is for the people of Rio Arriba County, as well as all New Mexicans, is for you to have the resources you need to thrive.

I live in the same adobe house where my great grandparents did. Like you, I often struggle getting reliable internet. Many of our communities, especially in more rural parts of the state, also lack good access to the internet. Due to the pandemic, with work and school happening online so much, it is critical that we can get online when we need to, be it for work, school or to socialize. That’s why I want to discuss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New Mexico communities, especially rural ones, to get access to fiber broadband technology.

The American Rescue Plan commits billions in federal dollars to support rural broadband programs. This infusion of federal dollars in the broadband infrastructure of rural communities means that we now have the resources to include state-of-the-art fiber broadband.

According to the “State of New Mexico Broadband Strategic Plan and Rural Broadband Assessment,” a 2020 study prepared for the New Mexico Department of Information Technology, fiber broadband is the best technology to prepare our communities not only for our current internet needs, but also for our future ones. New Mexico communities deserve long-term, fast, reliable broadband that positions us to be competitive in the future – and that means investing in fiber broadband wherever possible.

Fiber broadband literally works at the speed of light, much faster than electricity or radio waves. This is vital because some estimates show that average household broadband requirements could jump at least threefold to 143/47 Mbps, with peak usage of 283/250 Mbps over the next decade.

Fiber broadband networks have a lower 30-year cost of ownership than other alternatives, are less expensive to maintain and use the most reliable technology. Fiber-to-the-home is dedicated bandwidth, so you do not have to share a connection with your neighbors. Fiber broadband is less susceptible to performance deterioration due to usage, distance or climate conditions. Fiber broadband means rural communities will have the reliable internet access we need for work, school and play.

Fiber broadband would also promote economic development in the rural parts of our beautiful state. Fiber-based networks improve the overall economic health of these communities, making them attractive destinations for people and businesses. Furthermore, fiber broadband benefits community economic development and vitality efforts by directly raising home values. It also benefits local business and commerce – providing the means for small businesses to grow market share and increase their customer base. Fiber broadband also enables people who want to work remotely to stay in their communities, near their families and friends, and the land they love.

Rural communities across New Mexico need faster, more reliable internet. An investment in fiber broadband will support our students, professionals and families with speeds 40 times the current standard.

As a former Rio Arriba County commissioner, I’m reaching out to past colleagues on the commission – and I encourage you all to reach out to your own commissioners and community leaders. My request to decision-makers across the state is simple: As you consider broadband expansion in New Mexico, please make sure we include fiber-optic broadband for today and for the future.

State Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, represents Senate District 5, which includes parts of Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Sandoval and Santa Fe counties.