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Associated Press Photo

In this June 16, 2020, file photo, students and instructors at the STEM Santa Fe engineering camp gather on a video call as seen through the laptop of instructor Esther Lescht in her home in Santa Fe, N.M. New Mexico education officials are budgeting up to $10 million in pandemic relief money to create internships for high schools students, while nonprofits and school districts are bringing back summer enrichment opportunities to meet rising demand. As many as 2,600 students across New Mexico could participate in the internship program. according to the Public Education Department, which announced the program on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A nationwide search is underway for an administrator to guide New Mexico’s expansion of high-speed internet, with an appointment expected in July.

Details of the talent search are part of a progress report by state information technology officials, scheduled for discussion Thursday at a legislative hearing.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expanded the search for a state director of broadband internet after vetting six candidates and holding a pair of interviews. She has tasked a retired Boeing engineer with outlining a statewide technology strategy for the future.

The Legislature and governor recently approved $133 million in spending to expand high-speed internet access during the coming fiscal year that starts July 1. They also called for the creation of a new state office dedicated to improving internet access, attached to the Department of Information Technology.

The COVID-19 pandemic and a year-long pivot to online learning have exposed gaps in internet access across large swaths of the state. And a state district court judge has directed the state to move quickly to improve student access to equipment and infrastructure for online learning.

New Mexico has hired a consultant to study existing internet infrastructure programs in comparable states, including Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota and Montana.