August 09, 2016

Luján, Udall, and FCC Commissioner Clyburn Discuss Importance of Expanding Access to Broadband in New Mexico

Santa Fe, NM - At a roundtable discussion in Albuquerque yesterday, U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mignon Clyburn joined approximately 50 representatives from New Mexico telecommunications companies and rural telephone cooperatives to discuss efforts and challenges to expanding broadband access in rural communities and tribal lands across New Mexico.

Commissioner Clyburn is visiting New Mexico as part of her Connecting Communities tour, where she is traveling the country to hear first-hand from stakeholders who are working to bring robust, affordable communications services to all Americans. Following the roundtable discussion in the morning, Luján and Clyburn traveled to Torreon, New Mexico to highlight the importance of the Lifeline program and efforts to modernize it to support broadband. Lifeline provides a discount on phone service for qualified low-income consumers to help connect them to jobs, family, and emergency services. From there, Luján and Clyburn traveled to Crownpoint to visit Navajo Technical University to discuss the need to expand broad band access in tribal communities.

"I am pleased that Commissioner Clyburn made New Mexico a stop on her tour because expanding access to broadband is a challenge that we must take head on," said Luján, who as a member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee has been a strong advocate for creating economic opportunities by improving access to broadband and closing the digital divide. "In a 21st century economy where connectivity is key, we cannot allow our communities to be left behind. Whether it's a worker applying for a job online, a student who needs the internet to do homework, or a small business selling its products with a click of a mouse, broadband access opens up the doors of opportunity. If we can have internet access at 30,000 feet in an airplane, we should be able to have internet access on tribal land and throughout rural New Mexico."

"Broadband internet is the equivalent of the telephone in the 21st century - it's not a luxury, it's essential in today's economy. And lack of access puts too many New Mexicans at a disadvantage. As a member of the Senate Appropriations and Commerce committees, I'm fighting to ensure that no matter where you live, all New Mexicans can access reliable high speed broadband for business, health care, education and everyday communication," Udall said. "I was pleased to join Congressman Luján in hosting Commissioner Clyburn in New Mexico on her Connecting Communities tour to see the impact of the digital divide first hand. I welcome her support as we work together to ensure everyone in New Mexico is connected, whether you live in the city, on Tribal land or in our rural communities."

"To me #ConnectingCommunities is about embracing the power of broadband to bridge divides and bring communities closer together," said Clyburn. "Thanks to Senator Udall and Congressman Luján, my visit this week has enabled me see first-hand the great digital successes and challenges facing the beautiful state of New Mexico, and the Navajo Nation. We must be ever-vigilant in our attempts to close the digital and opportunities divide. With 21st century communications technologies, we can, with more ease and precision, greatly improve health outcomes for those currently without ready access to healthcare facilities; provide more immersive and comprehensive learning experiences for children and adults alike; increase civic engagement; and open up new avenues for people to find the jobs and acquire the skills needed to work in an internet economy. All Americans should have access to robust, affordable communications services."

At the beginning of the year, the FCC released the 2016 Broadband Progress Report that found 34 million Americans still lack access to broadband, with 40 percent of people in rural and on Tribal lands lacking access to benchmark speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. In New Mexico, the digital divide is even greater, with 61 percent of rural residents and 80 percent of tribal residents lacking access to high speed broadband.