The digital divide has been a long-standing issue in Texas, with serious implications for education and the workforce. Nearly 2.8 million households in the state lack access to high-speed Internet, and the pandemic has only highlighted the need for quality broadband services. To address this issue, the Central Texas Governing Council (CTCOG) has partnered with Connected Nation Texas (CN Texas) to develop a technology action plan that will provide immediate and long-term solutions to improve Internet access and speeds in Lampasas and San Saba counties. The plan will identify the barriers to digital opportunities faced by Texas households, such as lack of infrastructure, digital literacy, affordable services, or access to devices.
CN Texas has created a Texas broadband funding guide (PDF) with input from listening tours around the state. Texas school districts have also taken steps to bridge the digital divide. The Huntsville Independent School District and the South Texas Independent School District have equipped school buses with Wi-Fi so that students can study during the trip home. The Weatherford Independent School District has provided signs and even recycled material to local businesses that want to offer students free Internet access.
The Texas Broadband Development Office (BDO), managed by the Office of the Comptroller, is developing the Texas Digital Opportunity Plan, which will serve as a roadmap for achieving reliable and affordable broadband, access to devices, digital skills training and cybersecurity awareness in order to expand digital opportunities for all Texans. City, county and school officials in Central Texas agree that improving access to high-speed broadband Internet is critical to education, economic growth and overall quality of life, and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to the lack of adequate service. The BDO will also oversee and provide grants, loans and other financial incentives to Internet service providers that expand access to broadband service in underserved and underserved areas. BEC has become known for its efforts in closing the digital divide in Texas, but all rural residents are still trying to find ways to improve their region's economy.
The technology action plan developed by CTCOG and CN Texas is an important step towards bridging the digital divide in Central Texas communities.