Nearly every public-school student in New Mexico now has access to high-speed internet, following a major push from the governor’s office to expand and upgrade connections.
Since the broadband initiative was announced in 2015, New Mexico public schools have ramped up speeds and reduced costs at the same time. Ninety-nine percent of public schools across the state now have high-speed access, an increase from 89 percent when the program began. That’s a difference of about 110,000 students.
The goal is to get every student in the state connected to high-speed internet by fall 2018.
“Every child can learn, and it’s up to us as leaders to give our kids the tools they need,” said Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, in an official statement. “High-speed internet is a necessity today, and progress like this will help more of our students and teachers have more of the digital tools and experience they need.”
While New Mexico has been working toward that goal, it has also been saving money. Broadband for Education (BB4E) — the formal name of the initiative — has saved the state over 60 percent in connectivity costs, marking one of the most drastic price cuts nationwide, the governor’s office said.
The cost reduction was made possible by partnerships involving several state agencies — the Public Education Department, the Department of Information Technology and the Public Schools Capital Outlay Council — as well as the national nonprofit EducationSuperHighway and a handful of internet service providers.
“Working closely with Gov. Martinez and her BB4E program, we have made incredible progress in connecting New Mexico’s public school districts during the past two years,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway, in the statement. “The FCC’s E-rate program has also been crucial in giving New Mexico’s schools the funds that they need to attain high-speed Internet access. Together, we are continuing to move the needle forward and are thrilled that we’ll be able to meet the connectivity goals of the program next fall.”
EducationSuperHighway also played a major role in Montana’s recent broadband gains, which Gov. Steve Bullock recently highlighted.
The BB4E program utilizes $49 million in state funding, plus funding from the federal E-rate program, to buy and install high-speed internet access in public schools across New Mexico.
“Giving students and teachers reliable access to high-speed internet has never been more important,” said Christopher Ruszkowski, New Mexico’s secretary for public education. “This is great news for our kids — they deserve the tools they need to achieve their dreams.”