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Mescalero Apache Tribe Gets $5.4 Million USDA Loan for Broadband Expansion

PHOTO: A multi-million-dollar loan from the federal government is expected to bring high-speed Internet to the Mescalero Apache Tribe in South Central New Mexico. Photo credit: Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
PHOTO: A multi-million-dollar loan from the federal government is expected to bring high-speed Internet to the Mescalero Apache Tribe in South Central New Mexico. Photo credit: Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
March 25, 2015

MESCALERO, N.M. - The Mescalero Apache Tribe in south-central New Mexico is closer to having high-speed Internet after receiving a multi-million-dollar loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Godfrey Enjady, a tribal member and general manager of Mescalero Apache Telecom, the tribe's owned and operated telephone and Internet service provider, said high-speed Internet is critical for the tribe to market its main source of revenue, the Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort Casino.

"We want to make sure that they have the best means of providing a marketing tool to reach the masses out in America," he said. "That's the only way you can put yourself on the map."

Mescalero Apache Telecom is receiving a $5.4 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, which provides funding for broadband expansion in rural areas. Enjady said high-speed Internet also should mean a better learning experience for students on the reservation.

The action follows the Federal Communications Commission vote late last month to regulate the Internet as a utility. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said the goal is to reverse laws in more than 20 states that don't allow communities to start their own broadband networks, and also expand broadband access in rural areas.

Enjady said it's a move in the right direction.

"Hopefully," he said, "it provides the definitions that are needed to create the sustainability of a fair and equitable way of - and a means to - provide broadband to rural New Mexico, Indian Country, and hopefully rural America."

Enjady said the Mescalero Apache Tribe started its own phone company in the late 1990s because no private vendor would do it.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM