Broadband problems continue to slow down New Mexico students, but a pilot project using TV signals to transmit computer files may help.

On Thursday, state public education officials distributed devices to eight Taos families that allow schools to send them digital files via television. The card-deck-sized boxes allow digital television receivers to connect with computers.

In October, local broadcasting affiliates of New Mexico PBS finished testing the technology to make sure they could set aside bandwidth not taken up by TV show broadcasts and dedicate it to broadcast downloadable digital files.

The pilot in Taos relies on a broadcast from Northern New Mexico PBS affiliate KNME, while two others are planning to roll out pilot programs in Silver City and Portales.

Many rural areas of New Mexico are too far from internet infrastructure like fiber cables and cell towers but do get TV reception.

Remote learning during the pandemic last year highlighted the digital divide for many students, many of whom had to learn using paper packets while their peers could participate in virtual lessons via video chat.

Even with schools back to offering in-person classes, internet inequality persists after class when they do homework and for students being quarantined due to virus concerns.

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