Currently, 1.45 million residents of rural Texas lack high-speed internet connections, but a program launched on Wednesday by Connected Texas, a subsidiary of the national nonprofit Connected Nation, will attempt to change that.
Connected Texas is taking a three-step approach over the next two years to increase rural broadband access: Making sure lawmakers have accurate data, educating the community about the importance of broadband, and studying the “obstacles and opportunities” for expanding access, according to Chris Pedersen, vice president of planning and development for Connected Nation.
“Texas families, businesses, and communities are being left out of opportunities and lack access to resources that many others across the country enjoy,” said Wynn Rosser, CEO of the T.L.L. Temple Foundation (named after Thomas Lewis Latané Temple).
“Texas children aren’t able to complete homework assignments,” he said. “Senior citizens are unable to access telehealth networks that could help them. Our small businesses and agricultural producers are being left out of a global market.”
The organization plans to meet with internet service providers, local leaders, families, and agriculture producers as part of a statewide data-collection effort to identify underserved areas. Their efforts will be funded by the Texas Rural Funders Collaborative.
“The rural funders are backing this effort because we believe every Texan should have access to the resources and opportunities that can improve their lives,” said Rural Funders Collaborative Chair Ellen Ray. “Connected Texas will not only help our state identify ways to do that but the nonprofit has a history of working neutrally and with a focus on public-private partnerships.”
Broadband incentive in Monroe County, Indiana
On Wednesday, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners approved the creation of an Infrastructure Development Zone, which allows a tax exemption for “the installation of fiber to homes, businesses, schools, and publicly owned buildings.”
County Attorney Jeff Cockerill said that this investment will promote economic development, lead to more effective healthcare, and create more affordable housing options. According to Cockerill, it is unlikely that such infrastructure would be developed without the subsidy.
The Infrastructure Development Zone is located in northern Monroe County, which is not the only area of the county that lacks broadband access. County Commissioner Julie Thomas said she hopes to “expand this map” in the future.
(Picture of Texas broadband efforts by Ginger McCullough provided by Connected Texas.)