CN Texas Names State Program Director,
Begins Work to Close the Digital Divide in Texas
Austin, TX (September 18, 2019) – Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas) just named its new State Program Director—native Texan Jennifer Harris. She will work together with state and local leaders, providers, and other stakeholders to identify ways to connect and support the 1.45 million rural Texans who still do not have access to high-speed (broadband) internet.
“I care deeply about Texas families and communities, and I don’t like seeing children, senior citizens, small businesses, farmers and ranchers, and military
families left out of the opportunities and resources that others can easily access,” said Harris. “By working together, we can understand the challenges and identify the solutions to expanding broadband to all Texans—especially in rural areas that are disproportionately affected.”
According to data released in May 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. CN Texas seeks to close that gap.
Connected Nation Texas is a local division of Connected Nation (CN)—a national nonprofit that has worked directly with Texas communities since 2009. 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. In June, with support from the Texas Rural Funders Collaborative, CN was officially able to launch a new statewide program.
“We’re focused on three immediate goals: getting good data in decision-makers’ hands, helping people understand the benefits of broadband, and understanding how we can help identify solutions to expand access to rural Texans—by working in partnership with and to support communities and providers,” said Chris Pedersen, VP of Planning and Development, CN. “Jennifer’s Texas roots go back to the 1850s. She appreciates and understands what it means to live and work in rural Texas communities and has long served the people of Texas in the public sector. Her new role will be critical in bringing people together to expand broadband access, adoption, and use throughout the state.”
Harris holds degrees from both The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. Having worked in state government since 2005, her professional experience includes, among other things, legislative, public policy, communications, and government affairs work with the Texas Legislature.
“My time in government taught me the importance of working together to solve big problems,” Harris said. “Finding ways to expand broadband access to all Texans is a big problem that’s going to take innovation, creativity, and hard work to solve. Connected Nation Texas’ staff has already started this work through statewide data collection efforts, and we will soon launch community broadband planning efforts across the state.”
The organization has also been 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. Prior to the launch of the state program, CN gathered data through a series of listening tours and focus groups and developed the Texas Broadband Funding Guide.
MEDIA CONTACT: Jessica Denson, Director, Communications
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About Connected Nation Texas: CN Texas is a local division of the national nonprofit Connected Nation. Our mission is to improve lives by providing innovative solutions that expand access to and increase the adoption and use of broadband (high-speed internet) and its related technologies for all people. Everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.
Connected Nation works with consumers, local community leaders, states, technology providers, and foundations to develop and implement technology expansion programs with core competencies centered on a mission to improve digital inclusion for people and places previously underserved or overlooked. For more information, please visit: connectednation.org and follow Connected Nation on Facebook and Twitter.
About the Texas Rural Funders Collaborative: The mission of the Texas Rural Funders Collaborative (TRFC) is to partner with rural Texans to achieve their vision of prosperity and wellbeing. The group’s strategies recognize and are informed by rural expertise and assets. The TRFC leverages local, philanthropic, state and federal resources to collaborate on projects, support local capacity and leadership, share research, convene stakeholders and engage in advocacy. More information can be found on the TRFC webpage at: https://www.edtx.org/get-involved/texas-rural-funders-collaborative.
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