The Harrison County, TX 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 Solutions sector includes recommended actions the community can implement to improve the broadband and technology ecosystem at a local level. It should be noted that much of 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 line, 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 interactive map shows where broadband service is offered in the community.
Establishing a broadband council in the community can help to sustain the implementation of this technology action plan and the growth of broadband infrastructure and technology access, adoption, and use. The broadband council should be comprised of one central leader and a board of advisors, representing key community sectors such as government, healthcare, education, etc. The council, through its single appointed leader, should have power to act on behalf of Harrison County in matters pertaining to broadband: grants, infrastructure, and community providers. Each member of the council should be passionate about expanding broadband in the community and understands the demographics of the residents.
Overall, the Council should: 1) promote broadband and technology access, adoption, and use; 2) monitor local, national, and global technology trends; 3) educate the community on broadband and technology and empower digital engagement; 4) attend and facilitate events focused on technology innovation, broadband infrastructure, and connectivity in general; 5) take action on recommendations from the plan as well as others that promote sustainable broadband solutions.
Establish an organized group of broadband advocates in Harrison County focused on increasing technology access, adoption, and use.
Action 1 – The Harrison County Commissioners Court should commission a comprehensive community group referred to as the Broadband Technology Council. The council should include individuals who represent key community sectors including healthcare, government, education, public safety, agriculture, etc. The Council should have one chairman and seven advisors. The council chairman should be appointed by the Harrison County Commissioners Court, as this person will be acting on behalf of the county in an official capacity in matters pertaining to broadband. It is important for the county government to take ownership in this appointment. The board of advisors will augment the work of the chairman, serving to outreach into their respective professional fields.
Members could include:
- Healthcare: Clinic Directors, Family Doctors, Hospital Directors
- Government: County Judge, County Commissioners, Mayor, City Council, County IT Director
- Education: Superintendents, School IT Directors, Presidents of local colleges (Marshall ISD, Hallsville ISD, Harleton ISD, Waskom ISD, Karnack ISD, Elysian Fields ISD, Trinity Episcopal School, East Texas Baptist University, Texas State Technical College, Panola College, Wiley College)
- Public Safety: Sheriff, Police Chief, Fire Marshall (Volunteer), EMS
- Agriculture: County Ag Agent, Leading Ag Producers
- Business: Chambers of Commerce Presidents (Marshall, Hallsville, Waskom), Marshall EDC
- Community At-Large: Someone from the community who is interested in furthering the broadband agenda of Harrison County
Action 2 – The council should meet at least once a month. Meetings can be held virtually or in-person to accommodate needs of members. 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 Harrison County.
The responsibilities of the Committee should include:
- Stay up to date on state and federal broadband legislation
- Monitor broadband grant expenditures in the County
- Apply for applicable state and federal grant programs
- Monitor state, national, and global technology trends
- Ensure digital engagement in Harrison County in all community sectors (telehealth, telework, online learning, Wi-Fi in businesses, etc.)
- Update Commissioners Court, City Council and other governing bodies as needed
- Attend workshops, webinars, meetings, and general trainings that discuss broadband specifically and telecommunications generally
- Provide digital literacy and digital skills assistance to at-risk populations in the community
Action 3- The council should create a central technology portal/website that promotes local technology resources for use by residents. This portal/website should be updated following each Council meeting to include a summary of meeting notes, decisions, and next steps. The website should include resources related to digital literacy, digital skills, reduced-cost broadband offerings in the county, local technology hubs, and other pertinent county information.
Community anchor institutions: libraries, schools, businesses, non-profits, etc.; Internet service providers; Local units of government; Community residents.
Members of the broadband council should be identified within 16 weeks of receiving this plan.
Municipal Boards: Best Practices for Adoption Technology
Smart Cities Readiness Guide
Texas Broadband Providers by County
Anatomy of a Community Broadband Manager
City of Memphis: Broadband Project Manager, Senior
City of Houston: Senior Community Liaison
TARA Leadership: Rondella Hawkins
Josh Edmonds: Director of Digital Inclusion for the City of Detroit
According to maps published in July 2021 by Connected Nation Texas, 69.66% of Harrison County households have access to broadband speeds of 25/3 Mbps, which is the FCC’s current definition of broadband. This leaves an estimated 7,441 households unserved. The 25/3 Mbps speed tier supports an average of three to five devices at any given time. Given the state of our digital society, three to five devices is a minimal count considering laptops, desktops, smart TVs, cellphones, gaming consoles, security cameras, home appliances, and the like, are all competing for one of those five slots. At speeds of 100/10 Mbps, 66.1% of Harrison County households have access to broadband. This leaves more than 8,000 households unconnected at the faster speed tier. Upon review of the map, it appears the broadband hubs in Harrison County are concentrated around town centers. Specifically, Marshall, Hallsville, and Waskom appear to be connected at both speed tiers, while surrounding areas are sparsely connected. This action plan seeks to provide a path forward such that all households could connect to broadband and benefit from a digitally inclusive lifestyle.
Increase broadband speeds in Harrison County through infrastructure development and improvement projects.
Action 1 – To begin addressing slow internet speeds, the broadband council, in partnership with community leadership, needs to meet with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the community. This includes meeting with those providers who have been allocated funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). 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 speeds and delivery to residents. Furthermore, when meeting with providers, community leaders should address the survey results, highlighting the need for affordable, reliable, and fast service. It is important for providers to understand the consumer base in Harrison County to provide the best customer service experience.
RDOF Phase I Auction Winning Bids:
- CCO Holdings (Charter): 5,214 Locations for $7,853,792.40
- LTD Broadband: 27 Locations for $27,714.00
CCO Holdings (Charter) was originally listed as a winning bidder in Harrison County, however 22 census blocks have since been listed by the FCC on their default public notice and will not be funded (link provided in resources).
Action 2 – During meetings with providers, the community should discuss how they could be a project partner- be it financial or strategic in nature. Ultimately, Harrison County should play a strategic role in ongoing or planned projects that will widely benefit the most residents.
Harrison County has been allocated $12,927,140.00 in Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Should Harrison County choose to spend any of the federal funds on broadband, it is important that the County is prepared, informed, and readily equipped to begin working with reliable partners.
Action 2A – Harrison County has received a large amount of funding through the American Rescue Plan. It is imperative that the community spend this money wisely and with long-term potentiation in mind. These are unprecedented levels of broadband funding and it is integral to the success of the County that the funds be spent appropriately to ensure all residents have equitable access to broadband now and in the future.
Action 3 – In addition to speaking with providers about planned and ongoing projects, an important piece of the puzzle is understanding where infrastructure is and where it is not. Ultimately, infrastructure is what facilitates a broadband connection. As Harrison County seeks to bring better connectivity to residents, it’s important to know what providers serve the community and where their infrastructure is located. Accordingly, Harrison County should consider conducting a field validation study. Field validation would entail on the ground data collection that would help identify necessary infrastructure assets to ensure broadband services are available and corroborate provider service boundaries. Such work allows the community to accurately assess and map broadband services and speeds and could reveal additional areas of need.
Action 4 – Following meetings with providers, the broadband council should identify state and federal grant programs that are of benefit and interest to furthering the community’s broadband agenda. Broadband grants focus not only on infrastructure expansion and improvement but on device acquisition, digital literacy, improving connectivity in community organizations, and other related areas. In a time when broadband is at the forefront of state and federal legislative conversation, it is important for the broadband council to make the most of available funds. Grant lists have been linked in the below resources.
Local units of government; Broadband providers; Community and regional organizations
Community leaders should begin meeting with internet service providers within three months of receiving this plan. While Harrison County does not have to allocate funding or spend federal dollars within that same three months, the community should outline the scope of broadband infrastructure projects (ongoing and planned) within that timeline.
Guide to Federal Broadband Funding Opportunities in the U.S.
Current Broadband Funding
BroadbandUSA: Federal Funding Guide
Texas Broadband Providers by County
Auction 904: Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
Connect America Fund Phase II FAQs
Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds
Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, County Allocation
First RDOF Default Public Notice
Broadband impacts every sector of a community, from government to schools to public safety. It is important to understand how residents are and are not using broadband to promote community solutions that increase and improve broadband access, adoption, and use. That is why Harrison County partnered with Connected Nation Texas in 2021 to better understand the broadband landscape of the community. Broadband is a key tool to economic and community development, specifically playing an important role in a community’s workforce development. The more skilled a local workforce, the more attractive the community is to potential new businesses and industries. According to the broadband survey conducted in Harrison County, 27% of businesses said technology-related training for employees was not important or only slightly important to them. Another 11% were neutral on the topic. As society becomes increasingly digital and reliant on online platforms, it is paramount that communities are equipped with the skills needed to engage and work online.
Increase broadband adoption and use rates among residents of all ages through community workshops focused on digital literacy, digital skills, and telework readiness.
Action 1 – The broadband council should partner with local and regional organizations to facilitate free digital literacy and digital skills workshops. Workshop curriculum should be curated using material created by the County and publicly available programs, such as AARP, Grow with Google, 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 understand the importance of digital engagement and to feel comfortable using online platforms. The more the community engages online, the more they will reap the benefits of a digital lifestyle.
Community partners can include:
- East Texas Council of Governments
- Chambers of Commerce (Marshall, Hallsville, Waskom) and Marshall EDC
- Schools: Marshall ISD, Hallsville ISD, Harleton ISD, Waskom ISD, Karnack ISD, Elysian Fields ISD, Trinity Episcopal School, East Texas Baptist University, Texas State Technical College, Panola College, Wiley College
- Public libraries
- Marshall-Harrison County Literacy Council
- Institutions and businesses who would directly benefit from greater digital adoption (i.e., banks, telehealth providers, online schools)
Workshop topics can include:
- How to teleconference
- Cybersecurity 101
- Microsoft Office skills
- Introduction to social media
Action 1A - Community workshops should focus on increasing the online presence of community institutions. This includes creating websites and social media accounts for businesses, government officials, healthcare providers, schools, etc. Only 69% of businesses indicate they have a website, while 79% of residents indicate they interact online with local business daily and weekly. Websites are a key marketing tool for businesses and an important resource for updates in times of emergency. In addition to community workshops, the community should leverage the Grow with Google program that provides free training content for small business on topics such as building your online presence, engaging with customers on Google for free, and digital marketing. Additionally, the program supports local communities in hosting virtual workshops.
Action 1B – Additional community workshops should focus on technology training for local employees. Technology is ever-changing and employee technology skills are important to meeting the needs of local businesses. Currently, only 30% of businesses require their employees to pursue continuing education as part of their employment. Growing technology skills of the workforce is critical to ensuring employers have the talent they need to expand and sustain their operations.
Action 2 – The broadband council should work with local schools in Harrison County to integrate digital skills and digital literacy into classroom curriculum. According to survey results, the average device to student ratio is 1.7 indicating students have access to internet devices. With access to internet devices comes the opportunity to learn online skills that will prove beneficial to students academically, professionally, and socially. It’s important to understand that a device is only as useful as the user’s skillset. If someone cannot utilize Microsoft Word, answer emails, or surf the web, then the perks of a laptop will largely be lost on them. Furthermore, amongst school-aged children, digital skill training should focus on equipping students with tools that will be beneficial for further educational attainment (i.e., college applications, SAT prep) and professional development (i.e., resume writing, online portals).
Action 3- According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year estimate, the average commute in Harrison County is 24.2 minutes. Additionally, according to the Census Bureau’s ACS 5-year estimate for Harrison County, 85% of residents commuted to work alone, while another 7.7% carpooled to work. While this is on par with the state average for commuting (27.2 minutes), the last year has showcased the need and society’s ability to successfully telework, which would cut out commuting altogether. Telework is a viable work option in a digitally inclusive society but it requires a stable internet connection and requisite digital skills to be successful. Therefore, the broadband council should plan and host workshops that highlight the skills necessary for teleworking. In turn, businesses should be an integral part of the conversation as they too could benefit from a teleworking staff. The Chamber of Commerce and local businesses can lead the conversation on teleworking dos and don’ts, best practices, and personal success stories.
Local businesses and business organizations (chambers of commerce and economic development corporations); local units of government; community residents; community anchor institutions (schools, libraries, healthcare clinics).
Digital skills and digital literacy workshops should be available no later than the end of Q2 2022. Curriculum should be reviewed and updated every three to four months.
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!
US Census: Harrison County
Grow with Google