536% is how much faster the internet is in South Korea versus New Mexico, according to a report from the Communications Workers of America.
"Fast. It’s not for everyone."
—Comcast slogan used in TV commercials featuring "The Slowskys," two turtles who adore slow downloads
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Three different state-by-state internet service evaluations this year have rated New Mexico close to the very bottom.
In January, PC Magazine ranked New Mexico's net connections the 50th slowest in the US. In June, the US Census Bureau ranked the state the 42nd worst for internet access. This month, the Communications Workers of America's annual survey named New Mexico the 40th slowest, an 11-spot drop from last year.
New Mexico's internet sluggishness isn't just a drag for online porn addicts; it's a hurdle for the state's economy as a whole. The state can't meet the broadband demands of the blossoming film industry, nor does it have the infrastructure in place for government, health and education projects in the pipeline.
"It seems like it was always put on the back burner, perhaps at the expense of preparing for where the economy is now," Duncan Sill, liaison to Santa Fe Regional Telecommunications Coalition, tells SFR.
Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Community College make up the SFRTC, which applied for $6 million in stimulus money in August for broadband infrastructure projects. According to the coalition's economic impact evaluations, a Santa Fe fiber-optic project would create more than 2,300 private-sector jobs over the next three years.
Initially, the New Mexico Department of Information Technology and the New Mexico Office of Recovery and Reinvestment coordinated a single grant application with all telecommunications providers in the state. However, according to former Gov. Toney Anaya, who heads the Recovery and Reinvestment Office, two months ago the feds released guidelines that disallowed a single coordinated application.
Instead, 13 New Mexico telecommunications and government groups applied for $180 million in federal funds, with each application supplemented by a letter from Gov. Bill Richardson that explains how these projects fit into the bigger, statewide picture.
"The initial impact of laying down the infrastructure will be significant, but the real impact, the long-term impact, is going to be in economic development, education and health care," Anaya tells SFR. In tandem with renewable-energy initiatives, Anaya says, "these programs could reshape the economy in the state for several decades."
In all, the US Commerce Department has received $28 billion in stimulus funding requests for broadband projects, but only $7.2 billion is available to fund these projects.