Their casita is one of about 6,300 homes and businesses in northern New Mexico connected to a high-speed fiber-optic internet network run by an unlikely source: the local electric cooperative.
By the 1930s, 90 percent of urban dwellers in the U.S. had easy access to electricity. Not so in the rural parts of the country, where only 10 percent of the population had electricity in their homes. Major electric companies said it was too hard to extend electric service to those areas; they couldn’t make enough money.
The New Deal established rural electric cooperatives to do the work the big companies would not. The U.S. set out on a massive subsidy program, offering low-interest loans to rural electric coops.
“Essentially, rural infrastructure has generally been delivered by nonprofits,” said Chris Mitchell, a researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance who studies cooperatives and other community-led broadband networks.