Plateau gets $19.2 million grant for rural broadband
May 10, 2020
CLOVIS — Plateau has received a $19.2 million Reconnect grant as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, according to a company release.
The money, which largely went to Plateau, is part of a $23 million New Mexico allocation to three recipients. Plateau is required to provide a $6.4 million match, and has five years to complete the project.
The grant will be used for the installation of 759 miles of high-capacity fiber line to connect rural areas that lack broadband access and provide those areas the same services available in urban markets. The area includes more than 780 households, farms, businesses and ranches.
“The RUS Reconnect grant money is an investment in the quality of life for our Cooperative members,” Plateau CEO David Robinson said in the release. “As we’ve seen through the COVID-19 response, access to broadband has never been more important than it is today. It can be the key to education, health care and employment. We are proud to be able to provide broadband to 90% of our Cooperative members today. Thanks to the RUS Reconnect grant, we will be able to provide broadband to the remaining 10%.”
State Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte told the Albuquerque Journal the expanded service would help agricultural producers market products online.
Witte also said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the challenges students in rural New Mexico face without internet.
“They’re (schoolchildren) learning from their homes,” he said. “And yet we’ve run into connectivity issues. I think through this ReConnect program, we have a great opportunity to really get that taken care of in the future.”
Penasco Valley Telephone Cooperative received a $3.1 million grant to cover a fiber network over 363 square miles in four counties, while Pueblo of Acoma received a $943,000 grant to upgrade wireless broadband services throughout Cibola County.
“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now — as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,”U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a USDA statement. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”