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According to data collected by NMSU's Center for Community Analysis (CCA), 41 percent of households earning less than $20,000 a year are without Internet access in the Las Cruces Public School district.
That number increases when looking at Doña Ana’s surrounding more rural districts: 58 percent in the Gadsden district and 70 percent in the Hatch district. As much as 22 percent of New Mexicans are underserved when it comes to broadband.
In the wake of COVID-19, the disparities have been amplified. However, so has the opportunity to highlight the urgency to policymakers and generate the collective voice needed to do something about it, according to Sommer Mitchell of the Success Partnership, which is dedicated to making broadband access available to more New Mexicans.
The Success Partnership is a prenatal-to-career readiness education initiative launched in 2013. The collaborative is supported by more than 100 cross-sector organizations comprised of parents, education professionals, nonprofits, businesses, regional partners and community leaders committed to improving educational outcomes in Dona Ana County.
The primary support organizations for the Success Partnership collaborative are Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, Ngage New Mexico, La Clinica de Familia Family Services and the NMSU Center for Community Analysis.
Cost estimates to ensure broadband connectivity statewide are anywhere from $2-5 billion, “but we have the opportunity to ensure at least $1 billion becomes available to approach this critical need in New Mexico in the upcoming legislative session,” Mitchell said.
An education-context report compiled by CCA states, “Inequitable access to the Internet and technology, otherwise known as the “digital divide,” has long signaled one of the great inequities in education.”
In early 2020, Mitchell said, the Success Partnership and school districts across the state began to see “the resounding need for access to technology surface in a way that could not be ignored.”
In a July work session, the Leaders Circle, a group of more than 30 community leaders who govern the Success Partnership, invited members of the K-12 community to share concerns and made access to broadband a priority.
"In light of the pandemic's devastating impact on student access to education, the Leaders Circle of the Success Partnership strategized around the best way they could use their voices to advocate for students' and educators' needs, and broadband access was the clear choice," said Lori Martinez, executive director of Ngage New Mexico.
Martinez said the group devised four strategies for concerned residents to get involved in the effort.
* Sign a letter asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to allocate $200 million in capital outlay funds that will allow the state to qualify for $1 billion in federal funding resulting for statewide connectivity. Find the letter at www.SuccessDac.org/ConnectNM.
* Ask others to sign the letter.
* Submit a video or text testimonial regarding how broadband would elevate the community or focusing on how lack of broadband adversely affects education, health care, access to job opportunities, etc.
* Share and follow #ConnectNM on social media using the hashtag #ConnectNM and tagging the governor's office, in an effort to build on the initiative's history and highlight ongoing efforts through individual pages and outlets.
For more information about the Success Partnership, contact marketing@Successdac.org.