$14.3M grant could make Acoma Pueblo’s internet problems ‘a thing of the past’

.3M grant could make Acoma Pueblo’s internet problems ‘a thing of the past’

A top Acoma Pueblo official is hopeful that the tribe’s poor internet capability will soon “be a thing of the past.”

The federal government announced Thursday that the tribe was awarded $14.3 million for a broadband project. The money is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act that rolls out a total of $65 billion to bring high-speed Internet to underserved communities, said Ryan Berni, a senior advisor for infrastructure implementation for the White House.

“The Pueblo of Acoma is very honored to receive the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Grant, which will help advance the tribe’s technological environment, improve communications and provide reliable Internet services for our people,” said Acoma’s 2nd Lt. Gov. Douglas Patricio said in a statement. “The days of poor to no service availability will be a thing of the past, and we can catch up with today’s technology.”

Berni said about one-third of Indian country across America does not have access to high-speed Internet.

“The pandemic has shown us that high-speed internet is now a necessity,” Berni said. “And that’s why we’re really focused on how to connect all areas of the country, especially those that aren’t currently served by high-speed internet.”

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Berni said the tribe previously posted a notice of funding opportunity to receive bids for the project.

It was not clear who the contractor for the project would be. Acoma officials did not return a request for comment Thursday.

The project will eventually provide Internet services to 1,160 households, according to the White House.

On Thursday, the federal government also announced funding for a similar broadband project for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota.

“Tribal communities often face high barriers to Internet adoption that hinder their ability to thrive in the modern digital economy,” said Alan Davidson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information. “Today’s grants to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the Pueblo of Acoma will reduce these barriers for more than 1,500 tribal households, connecting them to economic and educational opportunities that many of us take for granted.”

The infrastructure act, signed into law in 2021, would provide $550 billion over fiscal years 2022 through 2026 for various types of infrastructure across the country. In total, New Mexico will receive $2.6 billion for various projects.

Some of the local projects announced include $14 million in improvements at the Albuquerque International Sunport and $11.5 million for a trail project in and around Downtown.

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