The Archer County Broadband Team has completed its community technology assessment. The results of the assessment can be found by clicking the symbol for each of the sections below. The Recommended Actions section includes steps the community can implement to improve the broadband and technology ecosystem at a local level.
It should be noted that the assessment was conducted during the global COVID-19 pandemic. This worldwide event likely impacted many of the metrics included in this assessment.
Broadband access refers to the infrastructure that enables a high-speed internet connection. There are two primary types of broadband connections: fixed and mobile.
Fixed broadband is delivered to a user via several technology platforms including cable, digital subscriber line (DSL) over phone lines, fiber optics, and fixed wireless. Fixed broadband is designed for stationary use at a fixed location such as a home, business, or institution. From one location, however, fixed broadband service is often broadcast as a Wi-Fi network to connect nearby devices.
The following map shows where broadband is available in the community.
The state of Texas was allocated $3.3 billion under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) via the Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program and the Digital Equity Act. These programs will fund projects that help expand high-speed internet access and ensure Texas communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy by promoting a diverse array of digital advancement projects. With this once-in-a-generation infusion of money coming from the federal government, it is critical that Archer County establishes a plan moving forward to keep the broadband space as a top-of-mind priority. This requires ongoing assessments, monitoring of services, and local funding allocations to support ongoing improvements.
Objective: Establish central leadership in Archer County as a tool for economic and community development.
Action 1 – Establish a Broadband Council to function as advisors to the county.
The establishment of a county-based Broadband Council is vital to ensure that the community stays on top of the state, local, and federal broadband happenings. An official Broadband Council emphasizes that the county recognizes broadband as a high priority of focus and investment and sends a message to the community that access to information, economic development, quality of life, and the community’s health and well-being are important.
Broadband Council advisory members should include representatives from a wide variety of community stakeholders, such as:
· Health care: Local physicians or hospital staff
· Government: County Judge, County Commissioners, Mayor, City Council, County IT Director
· Education (K-12): Superintendents, School IT Directors
· Public Safety: County Sheriff’s Office, Police Department, Fire and Rescue and surrounding Volunteer Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services
· Agriculture: County Ag Agent, Leading Ag Producers
· Business: Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development
· Library: Public Library Directors, Librarians
· Community At-Large: Someone from the community who is interested in broadband.
Broadband Council responsibilities should include:
· Keep abreast of state and national broadband policy initiatives and notable broadband news. Stay up to date on publications, events, and policy briefs published by the 1.) Governor’s Broadband Development Council (GBDC) and 2.) Broadband Development Office (BDO), as well as monitor notable broadband developments via industry newsletters and focused research.
· Keep the community informed of projects and progress and invite community participation to maintain buy-in and high adoption rates. Getting community buy-in is essential to the long-term success and sustainability of community initiatives. Success of local initiatives requires community support, transparency, and engagement. Not only will this help keep the momentum going but will show ISPs there is true interest for expanded service in the area, which will encourage greater investment in the region.
· Stay up to date on state and federal broadband legislation.
· Apply for applicable state and federal grant programs.
· Ensure digital engagement in all community sectors (telehealth, telework, education, commerce, etc.).
· Attend workshops, webinars, meetings, and general training that discuss telecommunications, and broadband.
· Provide digital literacy and digital skills assistance to the community’s at-risk populations.
· Hold regular meetings. The council should meet at least once a month. Meetings can be held virtually, in person, or in a hybrid capacity to accommodate members’ needs. These meetings should provide updates on community activities, allow time for guest speakers and presentations, and offer an open forum for discussion about broadband advancements in the county.
Timeline: Establish an official Broadband Council immediately.
Responsible Parties: Economic Development Director, County Judge, City Manager, and Chamber of Commerce Director
Action 2 – Appoint a Broadband Liaison to lead the effort.
The broadband team needs a point person, a champion for connectivity in the county. Whether paid or volunteer, part-time or full-time, this person will be the point of contact for broadband in the county. The liaison will stay up to date on broadband policy news, new construction projects in the region, new laws, and funding opportunities, as well as maintain visibility to keep the community educated and engaged in internet adoption and expanded internet deployment.
Timeline: Establish an official broadband team and select a countywide team leader immediately.
Responsible Parties: County Judge, Commissioners Court, Economic Director, and Broadband Council
- The FCC High-Cost program: CAF A-CAM
- The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF)
- Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, Allocation by County
- ARPA SLFRF, Final Rule
- Governor’s Broadband Development Council
- The Texas Statute
- Senate Bill 1238
- The 2021 Governor's Broadband Development Council's Report
- The 2020 Governor's Broadband Development Council's Report
- The Texas Broadband Development Office
- The Texas Broadband Plan 2022
- Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, County Allocation
- Final Rule
- CN’s list of Current Broadband Funding
- BroadbandUSA: Federal Funding Guide
- Guide to Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities in the U.S.
- Texas Broadband Providers by County
- Smart Cities Readiness Guide
- Next Century Cities Becoming Broadband Ready Toolkit
- Municipal Boards: Best Practices for Adoption Technology
According to FCC’s National Broadband Map, published in June 2022, 88% of homes in Archer County have broadband availability at the 25/3 Mbps threshold. Furthermore, according to survey results, 71% of residents subscribe to fixed broadband service, which includes cable, DSL, fiber, or fixed wireless technology. The remaining 29% were unsure of their current type of service. The average advertised download speed reported by survey respondents in the residential sector is 148 Mbps. At a download speed of 150Mbps, an individual can download an entire music album in about five minutes, and at this speed, about three to five devices in a household can be supported at any given time. The actual download speed that residents experience, however, may be slower than what is advertised by the individual provider. Two out of five households report the leading reason for dissatisfaction with their current internet service being, “speeds are too slow.” Slow internet speeds are not only frustrating but can be very limiting.
In addition, 40% of those surveyed indicated that they telework in some capacity, with 50% doing some form of telework daily. Teleworkers cannot be successful or competitive in their job fields without reliable and fast internet connections. Beyond telework, it is important to recognize how slow internet speeds negatively impact and deter digital engagement.
In Archer County, residents may have access to the internet, providers must be encouraged to deliver speeds that meet the everyday needs and wants of residents, businesses, farmers, educators, and others with a reliable connection and an affordable plan.
Objective: Leverage community assets and partnerships to increase broadband speeds in Archer County through infrastructure development and improvement projects.
Action 1 – Meet with local broadband providers to form and foster working relationships.
An important step to increasing broadband access and reliability across Archer County is meeting with local broadband providers. Community leaders should assess the status and viability of ongoing or upcoming infrastructure improvement and expansion projects. It will be important to know and understand where new or improved infrastructure is being built around the county, and how it will affect broadband access for residents. Archer County should maintain working relationships with each provider. As new grant programs and projects are announced or local needs arise, it will be crucial for the county to have a dedicated and informed point of contact with each provider who can assist, as necessary.
Action 2 – Provide survey data to all local providers.
When meeting with providers, community leaders should point out the survey results, highlighting the need for faster service at an affordable price. It is important for providers to understand the consumer base in Archer County to provide the best customer service experience. Sixty-four percent of households with a broadband subscription report being dissatisfied with their service, citing slow speeds, unreliable connections, and high prices as the leading reasons. All households surveyed want more choices. Armed with this information, broadband providers can address their service areas and improve access and education about their services throughout the county.
Action 3 – Pursue state and federal funding for broadband advancement.
The infusion of state and federal funds to expand broadband access, adoption, and use in the state is an opportunity for Texas communities to obtain funds via a competitive grant program. Archer County could obtain funds or partner with other entities, including internet service providers, to obtain funds for infrastructure deployment and adoption, and digital inclusion efforts.
In addition, other funding sources promise opportunities for broadband, such as the U.S. Economic Development Association or U.S. Department of Agriculture. Funding guides have been linked in the resource section. Capitalizing on these once-in-a-generation funding opportunities will be paramount to ensuring Archer County residents have faster, more reliable broadband for years to come.
Responsible Parties: Local units of government; broadband providers; community and regional organizations
Timeline: Archer County leaders should begin meeting with broadband providers within three months of receiving this plan.
Treasury Issues Final Rule for State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program to Support the Ongoing COVID Program
Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds
BroadbandUSA: Federal Funding Guide
Texas Broadband Providers by County
Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, County Allocation
Guide to Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities in the U.S.
Current Broadband Funding
While access to broadband may exist, adoption may not always occur. Broadband adoption occurs when a resident, business, or community institution recognizes the value of broadband (high-speed internet), subscribes to the service, and then goes online to use the internet. Adoption is critical for increasing the community’s digital capacity and empowering residents and community leaders. To adopt broadband, a person needs access to the internet, a digital device, and the requisite digital skills to navigate the online world and related technology.
Through conversations in the community, cost was identified as a key barrier to broadband adoption and use. Archer City Public Library cited high demand to use library and Texas Workforce Commission public computers, as well as consistent utilization of its three Wi-Fi hotspots. It is imperative for the county to implement solutions that can help overcome barriers to adoption, including those that promote affordability. No resident should be left offline due to financial constraints when state, federal, and nonprofit efforts are available to bridge the affordability gap.
Objective: Increase broadband adoption and usage rates among Archer County residents through low-cost connectivity solutions.
Action 1 – Promote programs that help residents overcome the affordability barrier to broadband adoption.
The county should collaborate with community leaders and institutions to publicly promote programs and opportunities designed to reduce the cost of broadband service. Promotion can be done by advertising in the local newspaper, providing updates in monthly school newsletters, posting flyers in public buildings throughout the county, and publicly discussing programs at Commissioners’ Court and City Hall meetings.
Below are programs and resources that are available to residents.
· Resource to locate affordable internet service or computers: Using online resources, Archer County residents can identify local and national providers that offer low-cost services for vulnerable populations, older adults, and low-income families with children. Resources include EveryoneOn, which helps residents locate low-cost internet services and affordable computers by ZIP code and need, based on their participation in assistance programs.
· State and federal low-cost programs: The following offer discounts for broadband to eligible households:
· State Lifeline Program: A government assistance program run by the Public Utility Commission of Texas that provides a discount to qualifying low-income customers who subscribe to voice telephone service or broadband internet access service. The The Lifeline discount for qualifying low-income customers may be up to $12.75 depending on the services provided and customer eligibility. Lifeline service is non-transferrable and is limited to one discount per household. More information can be found on the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ website.
· Federal Lifeline Program: Lifeline is also available at the federal level to help qualifying low-income consumers access phone and internet service. Additional information about the program can be found on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website.
· The Affordable Connectivity Program: Once known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit, the Affordable Connectivity Program became permanent with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (commonly referred to as the Infrastructure Bill). The program provides a $30 per month discount for broadband with participating providers. For more information, visit the FCC’s webpage.
The Broadband Council should consider the following institutions and leaders to help promote these programs:
· School Districts, including Archer City ISD, Holliday ISD and Windthorst ISD
· Local and county government
· Community-based institutions, including Archer Public Library, Holliday Public Library, food pantries, churches, etc.
Action 2 – Ensure that Archer County residents have access to affordable, internet-enabled devices that meet their needs.
Having a high-quality device is necessary to navigate many of the online platforms and modern applications related to accessing services, health care, education, and resources. The Broadband Council should promote programs that provide access to low-cost devices, such as PCs for People or HumanITcounty and/or cities within the county could consider creating a program where departments and businesses could donate surplus computing devices for refurbishment and distribution in high-need communities. The county could also apply for grant funds to acquire new devices or partner with community organizations and internet service providers to outfit buildings with computing devices.
Responsible Parties: Local units of government and elected officials; broadband providers; community and regional organizations and institutions: businesses, schools, libraries; community residents
Timeline: Disseminating information about free and reduced-cost broadband services should begin immediately to ensure anyone who wants access can get it. For residents who cannot access the internet at home, public computers are the next best option for accessing the digital world. To meet the needs of these residents, Archer County should increase the number of free, public computing stations by fall 2023.
Affordable Connectivity Program
Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Locator Apps
Texas Broadband Providers by County
PCs for People
5 Reasons Why Libraries are Essential to Have
Current Broadband Funding
BroadbandUSA: Federal Funding Guide
Northland Public Library
First-Ever National Study: Millions of People Rely on Library Computers for Employment, Health, and Education (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation)
The availability of broadband enables individuals to connect to the digital world and provides opportunities for personal and professional development, achievement, health care, and innovation. In rural Texas, broadband can lead to economic development, improved academic performance, advancements in agriculture and farming, access to telehealth services, infrastructure improvements, and overall technological advancements. In Archer County, it is crucial to recognize the value of broadband and how it can enhance quality of life.
Objective: Highlight the value offered by broadband through a literacy educational campaign and ongoing community outreach.
Action 1 – Identify community advocates in five community sectors who can lead digital engagement initiatives.
The Broadband Council should identify key advocates in the following areas to educate the community about the short- and long-term benefits of broadband adoption and use. Industry leaders should speak about the importance of broadband in their respective areas, as well as discuss the many uses. The more residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions that understand the value of broadband, the greater the likelihood of adoption and use. Potential partners for this work include:
· Economy: Archer County Commissioners Court, Nortex Regional Planning Commission, Workforce Solutions
· Telehealth: Archer County Hospital District
· Agriculture: Archer County Texas AgriLife Office
· Education: Archer City ISD, Holliday ISD and Windthorst ISD
· Public Safety: Archer County Sheriff’s Department, local Police Departments, and Volunteer Fire Departments
Promote economic and practical advantages of teleworking: Broadband access is critical for ongoing economic development in communities. Reliable access provides opportunities to develop new businesses, expand current businesses, and recruit new residents to the area.
According to survey results, 40% of employed survey respondents telework. Of that group, 50% work remotely every day. By teleworking, an employee can reside in Archer County but be employed by an entity in Dallas, Houston, Lubbock, or anywhere in the world. Telework offers greater flexibility in work schedules and expands the number of job opportunities for rural Texans, while also increasing the number of potential applicants for employers. The requirements to telework include adequate digital skills to engage online and a reliable internet connection.
Promote e-commerce as the gateway to the global economy: As businesses and community organizations expand their online presence, they expand their customer pool and increase profit. By utilizing websites and social media to market services and sell products, businesses can take part in a larger digital economy.
Showcase physical health and time-saving benefits of telehealth services: The future of medicine is online. Telehealth is a great alternative — or in some cases the only solution — for communities without large hospitals, general practitioners, surgical attendees, and medical specialists. Online medical services can allow residents to schedule visits with doctors, dentists, surgeons, dermatologists, veterinarians, and other providers. These online services are not only important in times of emergency, but they allow residents flexibility when meeting with medical professionals. No longer do you have to take time off work to drive to the clinic, but rather use a phone or tablet to meet with your doctor from the comfort of your home or office.
Telehealth is important not only for treating physical needs, but also addressing psychological needs — so it should include therapy and related care. Telehealth is not intended to be a substitute for rural medical providers; if anything, telehealth is meant to enhance the services already offered by hard-working, conscientious, rural medical professionals. Key barriers to participating in telehealth include lack of digital skills necessary to access videoconferencing, access to affordable and adequate devices to successfully participate in remote sessions, and underlying fears of cybersecurity and privacy concerns.
Promote local implementation of precision agriculture: Agriculture is the backbone of Texas (and the United States as a whole). Innovations in farming technology, such as automated equipment and livestock tracking, are designed to increase sustainability and profitability, meet changing demands, and allow operations to stay competitive. The future of American agriculture relies on connectivity, not only so producers can stay connected to the outside world, but so local ag operations can run sustainable and successful businesses that contribute to local economies and global food sources.
Promote the importance of broadband in emergency preparedness and the public safety sector (911, interoperable networks). Public safety involves protecting citizens, organizations, and communities from danger, particularly in times of crisis. It involves the timely deployment of emergency response systems, personnel, video surveillance systems, and dissemination of timely and accurate information. With improved broadband connectivity and reliability comes increased public safety capabilities of EMS, police, and fire departments. This is because first responders can now communicate effectively using mobile devices while in the field and can also easily communicate with other agencies at local, state, and federal levels. Additionally, the increased connectivity allows for more efficient communication of important public safety information to the public, and the ability for the public to communicate back to first responders. Without adequate broadband infrastructure, many of today’s systems to ensure public safety cannot be implemented successfully.
Action 2 – Provide and promote free community workshops.
Community leaders should partner with local and regional organizations to facilitate free digital literacy and skills workshops designed to increase digital literacy across the county. Workshop curriculum should be curated using material created by the county and publicly available programs, such as AARP and Digital Learn (resources linked below). Classes should be offered at local facilities, such as the school gym or the community center, and be advertised through the local media. The intention is for residents and community leaders to gain digital skills and to feel comfortable and safe using online platforms.
Workshop topics can include:
· How to teleconference
· Cybersecurity 101
· Microsoft Office skills
· Intro to social media and website building
· Telehealth basics
The general curriculum should be available at frequently accessed public locations in the form of paper handouts. Handouts function as a “grab and go” resource for residents to take and review later. In this way, everyone can benefit from the content in whatever way is most compatible with their schedule and preferred learning method.
Responsible Parties: Community institutions: businesses, schools, libraries, chamber of commerce, local organizations; local government leaders and elected officials; broadband providers; community residents
Timeline: Digital literacy and skills workshops should be available throughout Archer County by early 2024. The community should routinely assess the curriculum to determine if updates are needed.
Texas Broadband Providers by County
Improving the Quality of Life in Rural America with Broadband Internet
Implementing Productive Teleworking with Business-Quality Mobile Communications
How Better Broadband Access Will Help Telemedicine Reach Its Full Potential
The complete guide to digital skills
AARP Joins with Nonprofit to Teach Tech to Older Adults
Digital Learn: Use a computer to do almost anything!
Grow with Google
Texas Department of Health and Human Services: Aging
New telehealth station launching in Milam County
Telehealth station in Milam County first of its kind in Texas, bridging accessibility gap in rural areas
Pottsboro Library teaming with UNT medical school for telemedicine program
Pottsboro Area Library: Check out telehealth at your local library!
County starts free digital literacy program
Getting Started with Telemedicine
Common Terms Associated with Telehealth and Telemedicine
5 Tips for Securing your Mobile Device for Telehealth
Connecting Seniors in Central Texas
The Future of American Farming