FARMINGTON — While high-speed Internet access remains elusive in many places in San Juan County, four nonprofit organizations or social service agencies in the area are now offering the service to their customers, thanks to a provider of telecommunications.

The Comcast Corporation has created 45 so-called “Lift Zones” across New Mexico, including five in San Juan County, which provide free broadband connectivity to community members.

Local lifting areas are located at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington and Bloomfield, Capacity Builders in Farmington, the Goodwill Center of New Mexico Farmington, and the Bonnie Dallas Senior Center Annex/Fitness Center in Farmington.

The initiative is part of the company’s Internet Essentials program launched in 2011, which has helped provide nearly 300,000 low-income New Mexico residents with a home Internet connection, according to a Comcast press release.

“Over the past few years, broadband access has become increasingly important,” Chris Dunkeson, New Mexico region president for the company, said in the press release. “Lift Zones and the pairing of our Internet Essentials program with the (Federal Affordable Connectivity Program) are milestones for digital inclusiveness. They provide opportunities for students and adults in New Mexico to connect online, where it matters most to them.”

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NikkI Taylor, director of development for Boys & Girls Clubs of Farmington and Bloomfield, said the availability of free broadband to the customers her organization serves has made a huge difference for these young people. She estimated that the Farmington site serves 300 young people, while the Bloomfield site serves another 60.

The service was installed at both Boys and Girls Clubs last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, and Taylor said the high-speed internet service was a significant benefit for those kids, many of whom used it. to complete their studies. school work.

She said many families her organization works with have no internet service at home, but the elevator areas of Farmington and Bloomfield Boys and Girls Clubs provided free broadband connectivity to students who needed to attend. Zoom meeting sessions with their teachers or accessing other online learning programs due to the remote learning models that were in use at the time. The service also offers them access to digital tutoring programs.

“The (internet) service we had before could never have supported the hundreds of people” at the two clubs who now use broadband, she said, explaining that before the Lifts were installed Areas, clubs internet service was sufficient to meet the needs. only staff members of the organization and a handful of students.

“It was a big change for us and for them,” she said. “…It was a game-changer.

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Taylor said broadband connectivity is particularly important for young people because it provides seamless streaming capability – something they badly need to be able to communicate with their teachers. The club’s old internet service often got bogged down in these circumstances, she said, leading to broadcast interruptions and delays for staff trying to do their jobs.

“Anyone can log in at the same time, and there were no complaints, no issues,” she said.

Club students can also use broadband to access online games and other activities in their spare time, she said, which many of them cannot do at home. home.

According to the press release, the lift zones are also operated by members of the community outside of the traditional users of these non-profit organizations or social service agencies. Students and adults can enter a Lift Zone facility and connect their personal device to the broadband network to work remotely, seek employment or improve their digital skills, the press release said.

Boys’ and Girls’ Club locations in San Juan County aren’t open to adults who want to access the service, Taylor said, but she applauded the idea that other local organizations could fill that need.

“When (the proposal for lift zones) was presented to us, it looked like something we could do to add to all the great things we are doing for children,” she said. “But it’s been a boost for all these community organizations around us. … It provides broadband access to all the families in this area who can visit the lift zones.”

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or [email protected] Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.