In rural New Mexico, about 80 miles west of Albuquerque, sits the small town of Grants. This community of 9,000 people is the seat of Cibola County, but 77 percent of Grants' residents live without high-speed Internet access. Thanks to two intrepid electric cooperatives, however, the town is now set to receive a next-generation network.
Continental Divide Electric Cooperative is teaming up with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative on a 3-year plan to bring a high-speed, fiber network to Grants. Local economic development groups are excited for the telecommuting and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Steady Journey Leads to Cooperative Cooperation
Continental Divide Electric Cooperative spent several years investigating how to improve Internet service. In 2014, they were rejected for a grant to build a proposed $77 million Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. By 2016, the cooperative devised another plan: partner with another organization to pursue better Internet access. The co-op members voted in May of that year to amend the bylaws to try that route.
With the bylaws amended, the cooperative was then free to partner with Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, which built a fiber network in northern New Mexico a few years ago. Now, Kit Carson has the opportunity to share its experience. The cooperatives will connect homes and business in the town of Grants as they build out the network to connect Continental Divide's electrical substations.
Chief Executive Officer Robert E. Castillo of Continental Divide Electric Cooperative shared his excitement for the project's potential in a post on Broadband Communities Magazine:
“Grants, New Mexico, has long been underserved and has lacked the necessary infrastructure to develop high-speed connectivity for communications. Advancing communication through fiber-optic technology in the 21st century has similar potential to the development of electricity in rural America in the 20th century.”
Internet Service to Boost Job Creation Program
Two local organizations are especially looking forward to the new high-speed Internet service. The Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation and Soloworks believe it will prove an asset to their job creation program. Soloworks supports entrepreneurship and is a collaboration among many groups, including FatPipe ABQ, Community Economics Lab, Digital Works, and Circles USA.
The job creation program is set to bring about 20 jobs to Cibola County, and most are telework positions that need reliable Internet service. Executive Director of Cibola Communities Economic Development Foundation Eileen Yarborough explained the importance of the cooperatives’ fiber project in an Albuquerque Business First article:
“Having broadband/fiber connectivity will be transformational for the northwest region. It will give us the ability to be highly competitive for business attraction and provide existing businesses the opportunity to be more profitable and productive in this economic environment.”