Federal grant to expand Internet access

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

ENMR-Plateau Telecommunications received a federal grant Wednesday of more than $11 million to expand high-speed Internet access in eastern and central New Mexico.

According to a news release from the state Department of Information Technology, the company plans to use the American Recovery and Reinvestment money to enhance existing broadband networks and build 74 miles of new fiber optic cable to institutions such as schools and medical facilities.

“This award will create better broadband access for rural New Mexico, which can improve opportunities for distance learning, economic development and telehealth,” said Toney Anaya, executive director of the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment.

ENMR-Plateau CEO Tom Phelps said his company has 30 days to develop a plan and sign the grant agreement.

Phelps said he couldn’t release information about which areas and how many people would be affected because he needed to notify leaders in those communities first. He also said he didn’t want to give competitors advance notice of ENMR plans.

Phelps said he needed to review the grant requirements further before revealing a timeline for the project.

“This grant will allow ENMR-Plateau to continue its aggressive efforts to provide high-speed broadband access to rural communities in eastern and central New Mexico,” Phelps said in the release. “ENMR-Plateau has long been committed to economic development, job growth and education throughout its service area, and this project will further enhance those efforts.”