By Chris Edwards
HOUSTON COUNTY – The push to get broadband access into rural areas, such as Houston County, has been on the lips of many for the past several years, including several legislators and governing bodies.
Legislative efforts in the last regular session of the Texas Legislature resulted in bills being passed into law, which were spearheaded by local state representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and state senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville). Their legislation, which was deemed a priority issue by Gov. Greg Abbott, resulted in the adoption of a statewide broadband office. Last week, Connected Nation Texas announced it is getting ready to implement the Technology Action Plan in Houston County.
The plan was developed after a survey was conducted between the period of January and May of this year. Through the survey, responses were collected from 391 households.
The purpose of the survey, according to a Connected Nation news release, was to determine the availability of internet infrastructure and how residents are adopting and using broadband internet services, as well as what steps would have the greatest impact toward improving access to high-speed internet, locally.
“It has been a pleasure working with Connected Nation Texas on our broadband survey and developing an actionable plan to strategically move our city and county forward in providing digital access to all of our current and future residents,” Crockett City Administrator John Angerstein said.
Angerstein added that he is looking forward to working with Connected Nation on future projects in order to realize goals regarding broadband access.
Pamela Waggoner, who works as broadband solutions manager for the firm, said that the county brought together many leaders in order to work toward bringing high-speed internet to all sectors. “By implementing the actions CN Texas has provided and by using incoming grants and services wisely, Houston County is set up to be successful. I look forward to continuing to work with leadership,” Waggoner said.
The survey found several aspects about the county and its internet access. Chief among its findings was that 83% of Houston County residents have internet access, although many of them do not subscribe and speeds are often a major obstacle.
The average download and pay rates were also noted by the CN survey. The download speed of 18.8 mps is the average speed county residents have access to in order to download files, which, according to CN, is “considerably slower” than other communities.
On average, also, county residents pay $82.74 monthly for internet service, while other communities average $71.05 each month.
CN’s plan of action suggests solutions the county can implement, including the establishment of a broadband office to oversee broadband infrastructure and adoption, countywide.
The plan also looks to educate the community about low-cost options available, either via the federal government or by way of local providers, according to the news release.