Broadband, yeah, that’s the ticket!

New Mexicans are increasingly “getting” the fact that their state economy needs some dramatic reforms, but there are still some who want a quick and painless “fix” to the problem. Exhibit “A” is Albuquerque’s “bus rapid transit” system which is more about “economic development” than transportation.

The latest item that seems to have taken on mythical status in “economic development” circles is broadband. The New Mexico Jobs Council has been led to consider broadband by consultant Mark Lautman who has been great at cashing checks, but whose efforts haven’t done much to turn around New Mexico’s foundering economy. According to the ABQ Biz First, “The Jobs Council has drafted a broadband infrastructure bill asking the Legislature for upwards of $600,000 for a detailed study of what it will cost to get the state up to adequate download speeds.”

How important is broadband to economic development? I haven’t seen any good data on that. Here is a report that ranks New Mexico relatively low in terms of Internet speed, but Australia and New Zealand have slow service as well, but seem to do just fine economically.

There is another issue and that is regulations. New Mexico has burdensome regulations on some broadband providers. Current state regulation by the PRC is outdated and forces large providers to focus more on the regulated traditional phone service rather than focus on our growth area….broadband. Legislation has been introduced in the past few sessions to address these issues, but like so much else, the bills never get through the Senate.

So, is slow/non-existent broadband a problem in New Mexico? Perhaps. One would think that if it were a deciding factor that areas of the state with speedy broadband would be doing fine economically while the rest of the state struggled. That is not the case. Of course, policymakers could start improving broadband by reducing onerous regulations rather than spending more money. Interestingly, while policymakers are rushing to provide broadband, American households are actually abandoning the service