Los Alamos County, New Mexico Issues RFP For Community Fiber Network

Los Alamos County Seal

Los Alamos County, New Mexico joins the growing list of municipalities looking to explore a community-owned broadband network in a bid to improve resident access to fast, affordable, next-generation fiber.

The request for proposal (RFP), originally issued August 13, called for design, planning, and construction partners for a locally-owned and operated fiber network. An updated RFP was issued on December 12, 2023 stating that applications for phase two of their planned project were deemed “incomplete.” The county has given potential partners until January 12 to respond.

“The county team is now reviewing the submitted proposals,” the county states. “Once one is selected and an agreement finalized, the county will request the council award a contract. This may occur in early 2024.”

Los Alamos Emergency Op Ctr

The RFPs come after county council leaders passed a motion last January declaring “…that high-quality reliable telecommunication including broadband is an essential service.” Los Alamos County officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment asking for more detail on the county’s goals. Local outlets suggest more details should emerge in 2024.

New Mexico is poised to receive more than $635 million in broadband subsidies courtesy of the Broadband Equity Access and Development (BEAD) program, made possible in turn by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“We recognize that reliable high-speed internet access has become vital, enabling access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and essential government services,” said Kelly Schlegel, the Director of the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion. “This funding will help us serve so many of our unserved communities in rural New Mexico.”

In 2022, New Mexico launched the state’s Connect New Mexico pilot program aimed at covering 75 percent of total project costs for network expansion into the unserved and underserved parts of the state.

The state’s plan notes that an estimated 12.6 percent of New Mexico’s one million residential and business addresses lack access to the FCC’s technical definition of “broadband” (25 megabit per second (Mbps) downstream, 3 Mbps upstream), and roughly 25 percent of state residents lack access to broadband at the more modern threshold of 100 Mbps downstream.

Los Alamos High School Marching Band

While the delivery of fiber was historically and understandably been prioritized to locations like the Los Alamos National Laboratory, tribal leaders have long lamented a lack of affordable access to nearby tribal territories, which have been consistently overlooked despite often being in the direct path of fiber optic network deployments.

“Anything that slowed them down was bypassed and many of these firms didn't want to learn how to interact with the tribes and follow their processes,” Matthew Rantanen, director of Technology for the Southern California Tribal Chairmen's Association said in an interview last year.

“I’ve seen where a fiber line goes in a straight line for a long time, then suddenly pulls a 90-degree angle and follows the outline of a reservation on the outside to bypass it.”

Once the Los Alamos County Council approves a vendor, the public should be allowed to provide input as to the scope and trajectory of the looming Community Broadband Network.

Inline image of Los Alamos Emergency Operations Center Meeting courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Inline image of Los Alamos High School marching band courtesy of Larry Lamsa, Attribution 2.0 Generic