Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Keeping Texas Connected & Working with Connected Texas

Over the last year I have been working closely with the Connected Texas rep, Libbey Scheible,  for my area to help figure out how to get more broadband to more people in rural Texas. We've come up with some great ideas and were looking forward to putting them into action, however their funding did not get renewed. I believe strongly in the work we are in the middle of for our State, the Rio Grande Valley and all the members of the Regional Small Cities Coalition of the LRGVDC.

This morning I received a great, although sad, letter from Don Shirley, who was the Executive Director for Connected Texas. I wanted to share it out as I didn't see it posted anywhere online.

One thing about it in particular caught my interest, and it's this graphic regarding the FCC definition of broadband being raised to 25mbps.

Image courtesy of Connected Nation, Inc. & Connected Texas


Below is the letter in its entirety. If you live in the state, I encourage you to contact Mr. Rick Rhodes and let him know how important it is to you to keep Texas connected. Thanks.

Dear Friend:
Connected Texas has successfully worked over the last five years to accelerate broadband technology access, adoption, and use. In partnership with Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), Connected Texas has worked closely with rural communities across the state to identify community broadband needs and advance a meaningful technology initiative.

  • To date, 1,577 Texans have formed leadership teams in 41 counties to expand their competitiveness in the ever-changing technology landscape. Five of those counties have achieved Connected certification.
  • 1.1 million more Texas households now subscribe to basic broadband, a 12% increase between 2010 and 2014.
  • 820,000 adults in Texas have gained the digital skills that had kept them from subscribing to broadband.
  • Connected Texas works with 200 Texas broadband providers to create a comprehensive understanding of and improve broadband access across the state.
While Connected Texas’ impact has been significant, the challenges remain. More and faster broadband is needed across Texas, and Connected Texas needs your help.
Federal grant funding for the Connected Texas program ended January 31, 2015, and TDA has not made a commitment to continue the program with state funds. We know newly elected TDA Commissioner Sid Miller understands the importance of technology in rural communities, and we are hopeful critical funding for these existing programs will not be lost in the transition of the new administration.
There’s never been a more important time. As technology evolves, the “digital divide” between urban and rural communities grows wider. Rural communities are left behind. For example, while multiple providers in Austin announced rolling out “gigabit” (1,024 Mbps) Internet connections, many rural communities are lucky if they have 3 Mbps service. Some communities in Texas still have no broadband at all.
As you can see on the map below, at 25 Mbps speeds, almost half of Texas households are left behind. Texas will not be able to maintain its economic edge in the world without making advanced broadband a priority for the entire state.
So please take a moment, and let TDA know you support Connected Texas’ mission of advanced broadband expansion by sending an email to TDA’s Rural Affairs Office, Mr. Rick Rhodes at Rick.Rhodes@TexasAgriculture.gov. TDA needs to see first-hand the impact of our work together on broadband and how important it is that we continue this work.
Connected Texas is proud of the progress Texans have made over the last five years, and our commitment to improving broadband technology is steadfast.  Thank you for your outreach to TDA and for your support of Connected Texas.

Sincerely,

Don Shirley
Executive Director
Connected Texas

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