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Rural New Mexico school buys Starlink internet for students

$1.2 million deal that leapfrogs piecemeal efforts by state and tribal officials
A student carries a math book delivered by school bus driver Kelly Maestas on Oct. 19, 2020, along his rural route outside Cuba, N.M. A school district in northwestern New Mexico is providing high-speed internet to students’ families, most of whom are Indigenous, in a $1.2 million deal that leapfrogs piecemeal efforts by state and tribal officials. (Cedar Attanasio/Associated Press file)

SANTA FE – A school district in northwestern New Mexico is providing high-speed internet to students’ families, most of whom are Indigenous, in a $1.2 million deal that leapfrogs piecemeal efforts by state and tribal officials.

Cuba Independent Schools Superintendent Karen Sanchez-Griego said staff members began installing Starlink’s $500 receivers at students’ homes in November and hope to connect all 450 families by the end of the school year.

Traditional fiber-optic cables haven’t been installed around Cuba because of the area’s sparse population, lack of money and crisscrossing red tape from tribal, federal and state agencies that have to approve digging.

New Mexico education officials were ordered by a court in April to provide high-speed internet to students in Cuba and other areas but haven’t done so.

Wi-Fi hotspots from the state didn’t work well in remote areas far from cellphone towers. Education officials are planning on purchasing Starlink units for around 1,000 families around the state but haven’t specified a timeline for doing it.

“Our kids can’t wait,” said Sanchez-Griego, adding that the investment is funded by federal relief money that will eventually run out paying for $100 monthly internet fees. “Our hope is that the state will come through."

Social worker Victoria Dominguez, background right, delivers supplies she collected at Cuba High School, along a rural school bus route outside Cuba, N.M., on Oct. 19, 2020. The school district in northwestern New Mexico is providing high-speed internet to students’ families, most of whom are Indigenous, in a $1.2 million deal that leapfrogs piecemeal efforts by state and tribal officials. (Cedar Attanasio/Associated Press file)