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How Connected Nation Texas Is Working to Keep Rural Communities Online

Austin, TX (July 22, 2020) - The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for Texans, but it has also opened the dialogue for a historic expansion of broadband service across the state. This crisis has made the need for statewide adoption more critical than ever, more urgent than ever, more visible than ever, more beneficial than ever, and therefore more attainable than ever. As Texans grapple with life in a post-COVID world, universal access to broadband will be a lifeline to the new economy. With in-person services severely limited, Texans will continue to rely on broadband internet access to speak with healthcare providers; to attend classes; to work from home; to shop online; and to apply for government benefits. 

Fortunately, Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas), supported through funding from the Texas Rural Funders, re-established a full-time presence in the state in 2019 and has made significant process in data collection and broadband mapping that will be critical for all decision makers that seek to improve connectivity and the use of technology across the state. 

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Along with working with 200+ residential broadband providers across the state to create the most accurate statewide and county-level broadband maps that exist, CN Texas started working directly with Texas communities in the fall to address their unique challenges and opportunities. Through Connected® Community Technology Engagements, CN Texas has focused on expanding broadband access, adoption, and use in communities throughout the state. These engagements are now rapidly resuming after a temporary hiatus due to COVID-19. CN Texas will engage with a total of 23 rural communities across Texas through the end of 2021.

Before our state and country shut down in March, CN Texas had launched broadband engagements in communities across Texas: Rains County, Wharton County, Walker County, Blanco/Burnet/Llano counties, and Anderson County. These counties have continued to collect survey responses from residents and business, and across multiple sectors to best assess their current and future broadband needs. Many have completed this critical task and moved into the data analysis, goal setting, and planning phase of Connected®, and several are already engaging directly with providers using the valuable data collected through the process to create real change.

On June 30, Jasper County kicked off their broadband engagement virtually and received over 1,000 residential responses to the survey in less than two weeks! To say that Jasper County is serious about addressing broadband connectivity issues would be an understatement. San Augustine County launched their engagement on July 9, and Morris County will be launching on July 28. Details are still being finalized, but CN Texas’ 10thConnected® community engagement will launch in Donley and Wheeler counties in early August.

CN Texas is in the process of identifying 13 more rural communities to help become better connected, and the organization encourages community leaders and residents to reach out if they would like to learn more and be considered.

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About the Author:Jennifer Harris is the State Program Director for Connected Nation Texas. She is responsible for managing the development and implementation of broadband strategies throughout the state of Texas. She creates and maintains partnerships by engaging with communities, local municipalities, and state and federal government. This includes working to close the Digital Divide in rural parts of the Lone Star State.