High-speed internet is essential for schools, businesses, and industry to perform basic tasks reliably and efficiently. Currently, national requirements of adequate speeds are defined as download speeds of 25 mbps and upload speeds to 3 mbps. Lower speeds are no longer adequate for the basic functions of communication, business, learning, and services. As digital technologies become more sophisticated and widespread, minimum required speeds will continue to increase, making fast signals even more important.
Since 2010, New Mexico has worked to achieve high internet speeds through the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) within the Office of Broadband and Geospatial Initiatives (OBGI). As a result of these efforts, high speed internet infrastructure has expanded dramatically during the past five years. But a large portion of the population is still without adequate high speed service in their homes and communities. Mapping of internet availability done by the New Mexico Broadband Program shows the extent of high-speed infrastructure (fiber, cable, fixed wireless) in the state and also highlights the limitations of that extent. Despite improvements, one-quarter to one-third of New Mexico’s population is still without a home broadband subscription. This is especially true in rural regions, in which infrastructure build-out is more challenging and returns on investment are lower for the telecommunications companies making the investments.
Access to service of adequate speed is not the only challenge New Mexico faces. Study after study nation-wide shows that service must also be affordable in order for people to subscribe. In addition, individuals must have the skills needed to effectively utilize digital tools for improving their lives and their communities. These three factors – access, affordability, and skills – are the requirements for realizing digital inclusion.
As New Mexico continues its commitment to expanding internet service and speed, it must also seek to build opportunities for digital inclusion by employing strategies that promote access, affordability, and effective use of digital technologies for everyone. Only in this way can we hope to create digital equity within the state and to realize the opportunities for better employment, higher educational achievement, and greater access to healthcare and social services that such equity creates.