Harrison County putting broadband expansion plan in place

Thursday, October 21, 2021

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Harrison County officials announced Wednesday that a technology action plan developed by Connected Nation Texas is being executed to expand broadband within the county.

The plan is being implemented following an extensive countywide study that was conducted between November 2020 and June 2021. According to Connected National Texas (CN Texas), the purpose of the study was to determine the community’s access, adoption and use of the internet. A total of 1,519 residential households participated.

“From Harleton to Jonesville, residents provided feedback on their broadband needs and wants,” Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said in a statement. “According to survey feedback, community members are wanting faster, more reliable, yet affordable broadband.”

“Broadband contributes to a thriving economy, allows employees to further their digital skills, and helps students achieve new merits,” said Sims. “With innumerable benefits, broadband expansion is a priority for this county.”

Rush Harris, Executive Director of the Marshall Economic Development Corporation, echoed his sentiments.

“Broadband is demanded not only for new growth to occur but also to retain existing businesses and workforce,” Harris said in a statement. “It is now as essential to have broadband as it is to have water, sewer, electricity and natural gas for a modern business and modern community.”

According to a press release on the project, the Technology Action Plan provided to Harrison County includes the following recommendations:

Develop a broadband technology council in Harrison County
Increase broadband speeds in unserved and underserved areas of Harrison County
Prioritize broadband as an important tool for digital adoption, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and advancing economic and community development opportunities
Realizing that rural areas are in need of reliable internet to utilize real-time opportunities, the county has been pushing for rural broadband access for several years now.

Efforts started as early as May 2014 when county officials, at that time, kicked off efforts to create a broadband initiative for the county. The efforts, at that time, were in partnership with East Texas Council of Governments. The goal was to create a blueprint that would guide the creation of a more robust business environment, more effective community and economic development, improved healthcare, increased educational opportunities and more efficient government.

Today, the aim of the broadband initiative continues to be to find a better internet solution when it comes to internet use or access in the county’s rural areas.

This latest project was made possible through funding provided by the Texas Rural Funders, a philanthropic organization based in Texas who is dedicated to working with rural communities to develop and implement solutions designed to meet the unique challenges they face, CN Texas noted.

Officials noted before that Harrison County is the 12th community selected as part of a statewide effort led by CN Texas and funded by the Texas Rural Funders — at no cost to the county itself.

The Harrison County Broadband Committee reported back in February its partnership with CN Texas to develop the current county-specific Technology Action Plan.

CN Texas, who has assisted more than 650 communities with similar broadband challenges, met with community officials and analyzed data in order to assess the community’s specific needs.

According to CN Texas, the study of data collected from participating households revealed that the top barrier for households that do not subscribe to home internet service was a lack of available service, followed by the cost of internet service. Additionally, the average internet speed reported by households in Harrison County (23.68 Mbps) is significantly lower than connections in other Connected communities (33.70 Mbps) and is below the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) definition of broadband (minimum speed of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload), CN Texas indicated.

Results also showed that 93 percent of households participating in the study said they would like to have improved or additional options for home internet service.

To view the full results of the Harrison County broadband survey, visit the link: https://connectednation.org/harrison-county-texas/.


Source:  Marshall News Messenger

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