New Mexico begins push to improve spotty internet access

Santa Fe, NM (AP) –A nationwide search is underway for an administrator to guide New Mexico’s expansion of high-speed internet, with an appointment expected in July.

Details of the talent search are part of a progress report by state information technology officials, scheduled for discussion Thursday at a legislative hearing.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expanded the search for a state director of broadband internet after vetting six candidates and holding a pair of interviews. She has tasked a retired Boeing engineer with outlining a statewide technology strategy for the future.

The Legislature and governor recently approved $133 million in spending to expand high-speed internet access during the coming fiscal year that starts July 1. They also called for the creation of a new state office dedicated to improving internet access, attached to the Department of Information Technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a year-long pivot to online learning have exposed gaps in internet access across large swaths of the state. And a state district court judge has directed the state to move quickly to improve student access to equipment and infrastructure for online learning.

New Mexico has hired a consultant to study existing internet infrastructure programs in comparable states, including Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota and Montana.