The Red River 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.
Establish a permanent Technology Action Team in Red River County that can serve as the go-to point of contact for questions, meetings, and projects.
From August to October 2022, the Red River County broadband team, in partnership with Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas), collected surveys across nine community sectors to assess the connectivity, affordability, and general technology needs of Red River County residents. The local broadband team, led by Clarksville City Mayor Ann Rushing, brought together community stakeholders spanning education, government, health care, business, and technology. With the once-in-a-generation infusion of money coming from the federal and state governments, it is paramount that Red River County establishes a Technology Action Team to ensure the work to improve broadband to date is carried forth, and the community is staying on top of the state, local, and federal broadband happenings.
Action 1: Establish a permanent Technology Action Team.
A standing group of leaders is already active in the broadband space; it’s a matter of making it official. This group should serve as a local group of advisors related to broadband and technology. This will be especially important as funding opportunities arise.
The Technology Action Team should have representation from all community sectors:
- Health care: Local physicians, Lennox Health Resource Center
- Government: County judge, county commissioners, mayors, city councils, county IT director, economic and development directors
- Education (K-12): Superintendents, school IT directors: Avery ISD, Clarksville ISD, Detroit ISD, Rivercrest ISD
- Education (higher education): Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, Paris Junior College
- Public safety: Sheriff’s office, police and fire departments, emergency management
- Agriculture: County agriculture agent, leading agriculture producers
- Business: Local chambers of commerce
- Nonprofits and community organizations: Clarksville Public Library, Alma Flippo Public Library, Workforce Solutions Northeast Texas, The HUB Community Center, Red River County Chamber of Commerce, Red River County Historical Society, Lennox Foundation
- Community at large: Residents who are interested in furthering the broadband agenda of Red River County
The responsibilities of the team include:
- Staying up to date on state and federal broadband legislation
- Applying for applicable state and federal grant programs
- Ensuring digital engagement in Red River County in all the community sectors (telehealth, telework, online learning, Wi-Fi in businesses, etc.)
- Attending workshops, webinars, meetings, and general training that discuss broadband specifically and telecommunications generally
- Providing digital literacy and digital skills assistance to the community’s at-risk populations
- Participating in regular meetings. The team 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 Red River County.
Action 2: Develop a technology portal/website to promote local broadband resources.
The website should serve as a one-stop resource guide for broadband providers, community residents, and local leaders. The website should include resources related to digital literacy, digital skills, reduced-cost broadband offerings in the county, public-computing centers, and other relevant information for residents and ISPs.
Action 3: Track state and national broadband policies.
The Technology Action Team should remain informed and up to date on any publications, events, and policy briefs published by the Governor’s Broadband Development Council (GBDC) and the Broadband Development Office (BDO). The team should coordinate ongoing community outreach efforts and initiatives following the long-term objectives of the aforementioned entities. Local broadband teams should mirror the successes and objectives laid out by the state of Texas. Taking advantage of federal and state funding as it becomes available will position Red River County to increase digital opportunities for all its residents.
Action 4: Build relationships with ISPs, starting with the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) recipients.
The FCC awarded funds to ISPs in a reverse auction to deploy infrastructure to unserved/underserved areas. This included locations with no internet access or with internet speeds of 25/3 Mbps or less.
Three ISPs were awarded federal money to deploy broadband to areas that currently do not have a least 25/3 Mbps in Red River County.
- AMG Technology Investment Group LLC — adding 183 new locations and receiving $186,024
- Charter Communications — adding 1,321 new locations and receiving $3,029,118
- Windstream Services — adding 11 new locations and receiving $5,124
The areas can be viewed on CN Texas maps.
Establishing relationships with ISPs can open conversations about increasing speeds where needed and easing barriers to deployment (such as easement constraints, lease agreements, etc.). Talking with ISPs can help Red River County leaders bring attention to unserved/underserved areas, and partnerships can be developed to be inclusive of all areas. The county has assets such as towers for antennas or infrastructure, and ISPs have experience operating an internet business. Working together can benefit the community.
An example of where conversations need to take place is in the Haywood Community. One resident said, “We are in the Haywood Community in Red River County: very little update for our area. We just became people with county water. We have been asking since 1966!! We need broadband service. Thank you.”
Charter Communications has some RDOF funds to serve this area, and an open dialogue with leaders and the community can make sure service is provided where needed.
City council members, Red River County Judge, county commissioners, anchor institutions, chambers, and engaged residents.
Building out the Technology Action Team should begin within three months of approval of Technology Action Plan.
Providing a comprehensive approach to digital literacy and skills training will promote broadband adoption throughout the county.
Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information. It requires both cognitive and technical skills. It will also confirm that all residents have access to digital training, which promotes digital equity.
Action 1: Offer free digital readiness training programs to residents.
Offering digital skills training will increase adoption rates in the county, as more residents will feel comfortable with technology and understand how the devices and applications, they have access to can support their needs. The Technology Action Team should coordinate this effort and share opportunities widely, including on the technology portal/website.
Some digital training offerings may include:
- Connected Nation, sponsored by AT&T. This program provides free digital training workshops to communities for a limited time. There are three programs for residents, teens, anchor institutions, and community organizations to choose from. Information can be found here.
- American Library Association org. Courses offered in Spanish and English
- Goodwill Industries of Northeast Texas
- Google for Education
- Microsoft digital literacy
Offer workshops on skills local employers are looking for and community members may be interested in. Workshop topics to consider:
- Introduction to Microsoft Office Suite – Employers report that 27.3% of their workers are “poorly” to “fairly well” trained to match the organization’s technology needs.
- About: Train employees on the basics of Microsoft Office Suite, given its ubiquitous use in companies/industries.
- Who: chambers of commerce
- How to Teleconference – 62.4% of employed survey participants telework in some capacity.
- About: What is telework, and why is it appealing for employees and employers?
- Who: chambers of commerce
- Introduction to Social Media and Websites – The survey reports that 50% of businesses do not have a website, and a high percentage of businesses do not use various digital communications tools to interact with their community.
- About: How can an online presence help businesses grow and improve productivity?
- Who: chambers of commerce
- Telehealth 101 – Access to quality health care is essential, and modern technology offers greater access to health care providers via the internet. Eighty percent of survey respondents report they digitally interact with health care entities at least once a month.
- About: Discuss terminology commonly associated with telemedicine and the benefits of virtual health care.
- Who: Local health care facilities, including The Lennox Health Care Center
- Online Safety Tips and Tricks – Residents indicated they “know a little” to “I’m comfortable with this” when referring to cybersecurity on the internet.
- About: Being safe on the internet should be a priority for all. Discuss how to keep you, your family, and your information safe online.
- Who: Clarksville County Police or Sheriff’s Department
- Effective Online Learning and Teaching Strategies – In Red River County, K-12 schools report that 45% of classroom instruction is traditional and 23.5% is web-facilitated. Blended learning techniques are crucial to incorporating effective teaching methods.
- About: Discuss what teachers and students can do to maximize the benefits of online learning.
- Who: ISDs
Action 2: Encourage local organizations and anchor institutions to partner for digital literacy and skills training.
There are community-based organizations and anchor institutions that have space and/or resources to host residents for these trainings. Many of these organizations are already providing some type of technical support to their clients as part of other programs and offerings. These potential partners include:
- Clarksville Public Library. Many people depend on the library for internet services, which has become a vital anchor institution for promoting digital literacy.
- Workforce Solutions of Northeast Texas
- Red River County Chamber of Commerce
- The HUB Community Center
County judge, Technology Action Team, chamber, nonprofits/for-profits, public libraries, school superintendents
Digital literacy and workforce development programs are important now. Classes should be offered by Spring 2023. The curriculum should be reviewed and updated every three to four months.
Remove barriers to internet adoption by providing free Wi-Fi in public places and information about low-cost options for residents to close the Digital Divide.
In Red River County, 24.5% of survey participants do not have an internet connection because service is too expensive. Of those who do have a connection, 59.4% say they are dissatisfied with their service. Diving deeper into the statistics, 54% of those dissatisfied with service say cost is a factor. Other reasons for dissatisfaction are unreliable connections and slow speeds. With an aggressive strategic plan to connect the county to reliable and affordable broadband, Red River County can position the region to increase economic growth and educational opportunities by addressing these concerns with providers, anchor institutions, and others, and offering solutions.
Action 1: Promote programs that help residents overcome the affordability barrier to broadband adoption.
Red River County should collaborate with community leaders and institutions to publicly promote programs and opportunities designed to reduce the cost of broadband service. This can be done by sending notices out with the water bill, posting notices in the newspaper or monthly school newsletters, discussing programs at Commissioners’ Court or City Hall meetings, or advertising affordability programs at frequently visited community buildings and businesses.
Below are some programs and resources that could be promoted to residents:
- Resources for locating affordable internet service or computers: Online resources can help Red River County residents identify local and national providers who offer special, low-cost services for vulnerable populations, older adults, and low-income families with children. Such 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.
- Information about low-cost internet services offered by providers: In Red River County, AT&T offers the Access from AT&T program for $10 per month or less based on the maximum speed available at the subscriber’s address, with speeds up to 25Mbps. Spectrum (Charter) service once made available in the county offers Spectrum Internet Assist for about $20 a month for up to 30 Mbps. This is subject to household eligibility and service availability at a specific address. Prices are subject to change, so residents are advised to check with their providers.
- State and federal low-cost programs: Two critical programs offer discounts for broadband to eligible households:
- Lifeline program: This is 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 service. The Lifeline discount for qualifying low-income customers may be up to $12.75 per month ($3.50 state discount and $9.25 federal Lifeline discount), depending on the services a resident subscribes to and their eligibility. Lifeline service is non-transferable and is limited to one discount per household.
- The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP): This program is run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help low-income households pay for internet service and connected devices such as a laptop or tablets. A complete list of Texas providers offering ACP discounts can be found here. For a full list of providers listed by city, state, or ZIP code that offer this service, please click here.
Action 2: Make public Wi-Fi locations available throughout Red River County.
The Technology Action Team should document and promote an inventory of public Wi-Fi locations in the community, focusing on institutions frequented by residents. This can be done by collaborating with community anchor institutions, such as public libraries, to identify the number of Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers available. Additionally, compiling community hotspot availability in public places, such as parks and other recreational centers, and developing plans to create hotspots in areas where people attend recreational activities, such as tourist attractions, can significantly expand public access. A notable statistic from the survey reports 83.3% of business respondents do not offer free public Wi-Fi.
Action 3: Convene community anchor institutions such as libraries, community centers, and senior centers that host public computing centers to discuss their significant role in providing open, public internet access to residents in downtown areas or other public spaces.
This is a simple, straightforward way to encourage the community to participate in bridging the Digital Divide. Other opportunities may exist with religious facilities, schools, local government offices, RV parks, restaurants, or various social service providers that offer services in English and Spanish.
Technology Action Team, librarians, commissioners, county judge, local chambers, churches, chambers, and providers
An inventory of library broadband offerings and free community public broadband should be performed within three months of acceptance of this plan.
Ensure Red River County residents can participate in and benefit from advances in telehealth should be a priority of the Technology Action Team.
With the advances in broadband access and the innovations over the past two years to expand access to telehealth, healthcare providers have many opportunities to use technology to improve efficiency and outcomes. Increasing access to telehealth improves short- and long-term health outcomes for residents. This is especially important in rural areas, where the distance to health care facilities and the availability of appointments can be a barrier to preventative and routine care.
Action 1: Explore school telehealth programs to provide healthcare and testing for common ailments such as strep, flu testing, and COVID-19.
Providing telehealth opportunities in schools promotes health care for all students, improves attendance, and care can be provided with or without insurance. Students are already in school buildings daily and can easily access this opportunity. Currently, only Clarksville ISD subscribes to a student telehealth service – Goodside Health. Goodside Health allows immediate access to physical and behavioral health care via the internet. It is offered free of charge to the students and endorsed by Superior HealthPlan.
Action 2: Convene a countywide discussion on how telehealth can be implemented in public spaces.
In Clarksville, Windstream has deployed fiber to several anchor institutions and the downtown area. Telehealth offerings can be supported in the city library and The HUB Community Center, among other community spaces. Making available public telehealth stations allows residents to receive medical attention when a physical doctor visit is not possible or necessary.
Libraries and other nonprofits are expanding their services, often including those that are not considered part of their core mission, to meet the needs of the communities they serve. There are successful examples of libraries making a dramatic difference in their communities by providing a safe place for residents to seek telehealth care. An article entitled Public Libraries Tackle Telehealth Challenges provides examples and resources on how to get started.
CN Texas also offers many open-source resources and information about telehealth, including a five-part webinar, research papers, and blogs for communities to use. More information can be found here.
Superior HealthPlan provides a “Teladoc” service to its members. Participation information is included here.
County and city leadership, libraries, community health organizations, Red River County school districts: Avery Independent School District; Clarksville Independent School District (Clarksville ISD is contracted with Goodside Health, but it has not deployed the program to date); Detroit Independent School District; Rivercrest Independent School District
Telehealth services should be implemented in the school districts within three months of acceptance of the Technology Action Plan. Community meetings should take place when an expert from the telehealth field can be scheduled to attend.