SANTA FE – The state of New Mexico awarded the Pueblo of Cochiti nearly $2.9 million in emergency funding to bring high-speed Internet to the pueblo to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Inter-Governmental Agreement, announced Wednesday by the Department of Information Technology, was signed by Pueblo of Cochiti Gov. Charles D. Naranjo and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who also signed an executive order to release the funds.
“It’s past time to end the digital divide that separates communities in New Mexico and across the country into haves and have-nots,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “The current world health crisis has made it clearer than ever that high-speed internet is no longer a luxury; it is essential to the health, welfare and education of our people, and I look forward to seeing more partnerships like this with more rural New Mexico communities.”
In his written request for the funding, Gov. Naranjo noted that pueblo residents tend to congregate at the tribal library to use the outside WiFi connection despite the need for social distancing.
“This emergency funding will help protect Pueblo of Cochiti residents by assuring they have access to basic quality of life resources via internet at home without exposing themselves to unnecessary health risks,” Gov. Naranjo said in the request.
New Mexico ranks 49th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for broadband connectivity, according to a March study by Broadband Now, a website that helps consumers find and compare Internet service providers in their area.
“We look forward to hearing about the development of this project and learning that Cochiti Pueblo will have the fiber connectivity needed to remain safe and prosper well into the future,” said John Salazar, secretary for the Department of Information Technology.
Over the 12-month project, workers will install nearly 41,000 feet of underground fiber optic cable and almost 32,000 feet of fiber laterals, reaching 260 endpoint locations — homes, anchor institutions and tribal administration in the Pueblo of Cochiti.