Continued Collection and Validation of Data Helps Broadband Planning

The nonprofit group Connected Nation (CN Texas) this week released its second round of broadband access maps for Texas. These maps show the availability of fixed broadband around the state. 

Broadband access is critical to our state’s present and future. Reliable online access allows children to learn (especially as school buildings are closed due to health concerns), and it allows adults to fully participate in our economy. Communities that lack broadband access are blocked from job opportunities and other benefits of Texas’ success. As the state continues to grow, it’s critical that more Texans can plug into our increasingly connected world.

The regular collection of granular broadband data along with continuous validation efforts helps inform policymakers and internet service providers about areas across the state that need connectivity.  

Not including mobile wireless and satellite broadband, the new maps show that an estimated 1 million Texans do not have access to broadband at speeds recommended by the Federal Communications Commission (at least 25 mbps for downloads and 3 mpbs for uploads). The new maps do show about a 2% increase in household connectivity compared to the January 2020 maps released by CN, based on data submitted by internet service providers. 

Although the maps show that connectivity has increased, a large portion of disconnected Texans live in rural areas. About 28% of the rural population is estimated to be disconnected, compared to 1% of the population residing in urban areas. The recent coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the disparity.

In order to address our needs in rural areas, it is time for Texas to join the 45 states that have already taken initiative on this critical issue by creating and adopting a statewide broadband plan. Such a plan would help guide the development and investment of broadband infrastructure. Aside from improving planning, statewide broadband plans also maximize federal funding opportunities for Texas as some programs award priority points for a state broadband plan when considering applications.

Texas 2036 will continue to make the case for a statewide broadband plan in the weeks to come. Such a plan would bring attention, urgency and long-term planning to an issue that is central to our future success.