KUNM

State Of Change: Seeking Economic Health For Small Towns

In small towns in New Mexico and the West, life is changing quickly. More young people are moving away from rural places than into them. Some New Mexico communities are trying to escape generations-long boom-and-bust cycles, while others struggle to retain their identity in an economy flooded with tourists and newcomers. Internet connections that could power remote businesses in rural places lag behind urban centers.

New Mexico, along with the rest of the rural West, is in a state of change. Over the past year, a group of New Mexico news organizations investigated the challenges to building resilient rural communities, and found a lack of high speed internet holds communities back. Now, they bring you stories about the complex barriers to launching internet connections in most rural areas, and show you the tribes, towns and schools who are doing it better. This project is supported by High Country News and the Solutions Journalism Network, and is funded by the LOR Foundation.

Our stories examine what rural communities are trying to keep their towns stitched together and how well those efforts appear to be working. Read, watch and listen along at hcn.org or at your local news outlet. Share your thoughts on what small towns should try or what you think of the responses we highlight on Twitter using #NMresilience or on Facebook at your local news source’s page or at www.facebook.com/highcountrynews/.

Kate Schimel

Deputy editor-digital, High Country News

Project editor, State of Change

Tribes Lead The Way For Faster Internet Access In New Mexico

Apr 9, 2018
New Mexico PBS

 

For decades in these sparsely populated valleys and peaks in northern New Mexico, the internet has been slow, unreliable and expensive. This region is not remote, exactly.

Katharine Egli

TAOS, NM – Molly Byrnes, 34, and Jesse Hofmann-Smith, 35, can’t reliably make phone calls on their cellular network from their cozy apartment on the outskirts of Taos, but they can host real-time webinars and build websites online for clients across the country.

 

Their casita is one of about 6,300 homes and businesses in northern New Mexico connected to a high-speed fiber-optic internet network run by an unlikely source: the local electric cooperative.

 

Katharine Egli for the Solutions Journalism Network

What if big telecom isn’t the only game in town for internet service? Member-owned cooperatives and community networks are springing up around the country. And what’s more, they’re making net neutrality—unthrottled access to an open net—a core value.

Katharine Egli for the Solutions Journalism Network

Quality internet service is key to overcoming poverty, according to studies worldwide. But all over the U.S., people of color and folks with low incomes are less likely to have access to an affordable, reliable connection. Plus, big corporations are often unwilling to lay line through tough terrain without a lot of customers.

Sarah Gustavus

Let's Talk New Mexico 4/5 8a: Call now (505) 277-5866. Internet access is expensive and often slow in rural communities across New Mexico. How might improving internet speed and access help all New Mexicans  pursue educational and economic opportunities? 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

When the oil and gas industry takes a dive, or when extractive industries tank, so do economies in rural areas, where a lot of the jobs come from drilling, or mining, or power plants. A business incubator is helping entrepreneurs on the Navajo Nation with the idea that local skills and talents—and cash flowing in and out of local businesses—are key to independence from environmentally damaging corporations. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

 

Oil and gas drilling and mining companies come to rural areas offering jobs and cash, but they also dig into the land, pull resources out of it and create pollution. There are some folks in these regions who say the trade off isn’t fair in the long run. One organization is working on the Navajo Nation to stabilize the boom-and-bust economy of extraction by boosting local entrepreneurs and small business.

Ed Williams / KUNM/Public Health New Mexico

The Indian Health Service—the federal agency tasked with providing health services to Native American communities—has long been the go-to health care provider for tribes in New Mexico and across the country.

But in recent years, that has started to change, and a growing number of tribes are deciding that managing their own clinics and behavioral health programs will help build healthier, more resilient communities.

Leah Todd

Let’s Talk New Mexico 10/26 8a: In New Mexico and across the West, economies are changing. From agriculture to tech startups, health care and business on tribal lands, communities in New Mexico are working to adapt. 

This week on Let’s Talk New Mexico, we’re looking at communities who are coming up with solutions to the economic changes our state is facing as part of our collaboration with the Solutions Journalism Network's State of Change project.