Connected Texas Takes Aim at the Digital Divide

 

 

  • Connected Texas
  • Texas Rural Funders Collaborative

AUSTIN, TX – Connected Texas is launching a more than two-year program to connect and support the 1.45 million rural Texans who do not have access to high-speed (broadband) internet.

“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, Ph.D., president and CEO, T.L.L. Temple. “Texas children aren’t able to complete homework assignments. 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. That’s unacceptable, which is why we’re taking action now to improve the lives of all Texans.”

According to data just released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 31.1 percent of rural Texans lack access to high-speed internet. That’s compared to just 2.6 percent in urban areas. Connected Texas, with funding from the Texas Rural Funders Collaborative, is now beginning work that will help close that Digital Divide.

Three-Pronged Approach
“This will be a three-pronged approach. We’re focused on getting good data in decision-makers hands, helping people learn about the benefits of broadband, and understanding the obstacles and opportunities for expanding access to rural Texans,” said Chris Pedersen, VP of planning and development, Connected Nation. “We want to empower Texas leaders — at the local and state level — with a neutral resource center and clearinghouse for broadband information. This can help inform everything from infrastructure planning to economic development.”

Connected Texas is a local subsidiary of the national nonprofit, Connected Nation. Its mission is to improve lives by providing innovative solutions to expand the access, adoption, and use of broadband and its related technologies to all people. Through Connected Texas, the work will be laser-focused on rural Texas communities.

Accelerating Local Technology Growth
“This effort is meant to accelerate local technology growth in rural areas and increase the Lone Star state’s global technology competitiveness,” said Ellen Ray, Executive Director of the Still Water Foundation and Chair of 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. 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. It will take all of us working together to improve broadband capacity and use across the state.”

Connected Nation has worked in Texas before — most recently by gathering data through a series of listening tours and focus groups in late 2018 and developing the Texas Broadband Funding Guide. Connected Nation has also developed Technology Action Plans through its Connected Community Engagement Program for Texas communities including Ward, Upton and Reagan Counties among others.

Connected Texas’ staff is initiating statewide data-collection efforts and will eventually launch community broadband planning in Texas. The organization will be meeting with providers, local leaders, families, agricultural producers, and many others to identify who is unserved or underserved, as well as the needs and challenges that are unique to rural areas.

“As we move this program forward, we invite all Texans to follow our progress and weigh-in on the discussions,” said Pedersen. “We will share details on our upcoming mapping and data collection efforts on our website, through community organizations, and local media outlets. You can also email us any time and let us know what challenges and opportunities you see in your area for expanding access, adoption, and use.”

 

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