This story was originally published by the Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative.
Is your internet too slow? Residents of Southern New Mexico, along with people across the country, face an impending deadline of Friday, Jan. 13, to tell the federal government which homes, businesses and neighborhoods should benefit from billions of dollars in federal aid for renewal. areas with high speed internet.
Internet speed testing – which must be done by the looming deadline – is a key step in securing significant new funding for upgrade projects.
“It’s really a big deal right now,” said Bob Bunting, cybersecurity and broadband manager for Doña Ana County.
The FCC released its broadband map to the public on Nov. 18, Bunting said. It’s now up to the public to verify that the speeds and availability reflected in it are a true picture of which geographic areas have high-speed internet and which don’t.
All residents are invited to attend
Counties south of New Mexico face a stark connectivity gap, with many residents lacking access to high-speed Internet or with poor options.
Bunting said New Mexicans in each community should review the FCC’s map to make sure their address has the correct internet speed and whether or not internet service is available.
“There’s certainly a concern that the information about what’s available isn’t as accurate as we’d like it to be,” Bunting said of the FCC map. “Federal funding for future broadband projects is in jeopardy. When the federal government decides where to allocate money for new broadband grants, … the map is where they’ll start. Therefore, we want it to reflect the existing services as accurately as possible.”
When the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed in 2021, it required the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to use this broadband map as a key determinant of how to distribute $42.5 billion in federal funding. Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program.
The FCC website states, “You can easily dispute or challenge that the information displayed on the map is inaccurate. “An accurate map will help identify unserved and underserved communities in greatest need of funding for high-speed internet infrastructure investments.”
This program was created in response to the increase in internet usage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More importantly, it tried to solve the problem of millions of people who do not have access to adequate internet connections. And it’s actually an acknowledgment by the US government that high-speed internet is now a necessity for work and shopping at home, where the pandemic has come to define life. Students also need high-speed internet for classes and homework.
“It’s very easy to challenge the map,” said Kitty Clemens, broadband deployment consultant for the Luna County Economic Development office. “Now for the first time, consumers can go to a web page and enter their address,” he said, which will show which ISPs serve that area and what speeds are available.
How to check your internet speed
There are several apps and websites available to check your download and upload speeds – both of which are important for work and school purposes. One such site is https://www.speedtest.net. It only takes a few minutes to complete the test. For the most accurate results, you should not be using the Internet for anything else—such as streaming TV or playing video games—while the test is being conducted. Once you know the speeds for your home or business, you can compare them to the FCC’s map.
The FCC website where you can view a map and check available speeds for your specific location is https://broadbandmap.fcc.gov/home. There, you will enter your physical address and click on the corresponding point for that address. Then, official information about the coverage and speed of the Internet is displayed. To dispute this information, click on the “Location Test” link on the right side of the screen and this will generate a form to be filled out and submitted.
For tips on testing internet speed on a mobile device, visit https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/fcc-speed-test-app-tip-sheet.
The state Office of Broadband Access and Expansion sent out one-page letters this week urging New Mexicans to check the federal map. Mailings include a postcard that can be detached, filled out and sent to the broadband office to report internet speed. This state website also tells residents how to challenge the FCC’s map at ConnectNewMexico.org/map-challenge.
Definitions of high-speed internet may vary. For the purposes of the mapping project, officials are trying to determine which homes and businesses do not have Internet access — or Internet with download speeds below 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and download speeds below 3 Mbps.
Connection speeds vary greatly depending on the type of service provided. Typically, phone line and satellite Internet are on the slower end of the spectrum, while cable-based Internet is faster. The fastest service is through fiber optic lines.
Reyes Mata III is a freelance journalist with the Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of local news organizations covering issues important to residents in the southern half of the state. The current focus of the collaboration is the recovery of COVID-19.