At the NM Public Regulation Commission’s Open Meeting on February 25, 2015, Commissioner Sandy Jones announced that he would shortly provide a plan to create a PRC Task Force, comprised mainly of industry representatives, government entities and representatives from other organizations to promote expansion of broadband service throughout New Mexico. The Commissioner stated that he had been in discussions with many people throughout the telecom industry, and that everyone agreed that there should be an expansion of broadband in the state.
The goal of the Task Force would be to identify where broadband services currently existed, who was providing what services, and funding mechanisms that would be available, including CAF, USF, grants, RUS grants and loans and other funding mechanisms. He is looking for this task force to include local, state, and federal participants, but to be primarily industry driven.
Commissioner Espinoza and Commissioner Montoya voiced their full support. Commissioner Lovejoy voiced her support and referred to other initiatives by several committees in the legislature and wanted to make sure that the Commission took advantage of the work that was already being done.
Two Senate bills currently in the legislature (SB-34 and SB-165) impact this initiative. SB-34 would allocate $10M a year from the State’s general fund on a recurring basis, that would provide the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) with funds to help expand broadband service. Additionally, SB-165 would provide $300,000 to DoIT for technical assistance, outreach, education and training related to the expansion of broadband throughout New Mexico. The DoIT has also compiled a comprehensive list of broadband initiatives and funding sources that have been made available for broadband deployment in New Mexico over the past several years.
The “Task Force Plan” is going to be presented either at the PRC open meeting in Farmington next week or at the PRC open meeting in Santa Fe on March 11, 2015. The goal of the task force is to have a draft document back to the Commission by May 26, 2015, and to identify potential statutory changes that could be put forward during the legislative session in 2016.