Broadband Makes US Better: Lessons from the Lone Star State

By Corian Zacher and Brian Donoghue

Texas is home to seven Next Century Cities member municipalities: Mont Belvieu, Arlington, San Antonio, Austin, Gainesville, College Station, and Bryan. Like many states across the US, Texas did not have a centralized broadband office until 2021. Local governments and nonprofits in Texas have been working to improve broadband for their residents since long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 brought the issue to light. In particular, broadband plays a critical role in healthcare, education, economic development, entrepreneurship, and access to the legal system. 

Next Century Cities case study, Broadband Makes US Better: Lessons from the Lone Star State documents broadband stories from across Texas. Through ongoing relationships with community organizations, local leaders across the state have been able to bolster participation in access and adoption programs. The range of local broadband programming in Texas spans the gamut from distributing devices, providing digital skills training to building infrastructure, and developing community relationships that outlast individual programs. 

Community Partners are Necessary Components of Trusted Broadband Programs

As detailed in the report, “By empowering local leaders with the resources necessary to meet residents’ needs, federal and state policymakers can design programs that grow on-the-ground efforts. Fundamentally, investing in community-based programs and expertise helps build a legacy of inclusion into the broadband networks of tomorrow.”

Public programming throughout the pandemic in the Cities of Pharr, Brownsville, Mont Belvieu, San Antonio, Austin, and Harlington as well as Tarrant and Harris Counties, provides a case study illustrating how local partners are critical to building trust and accountability in broadband programs. 

Showcasing Efforts in NCC Member Communities

Using CARES Act funding, the City of San Antonio acted quickly after the start of the pandemic, setting up public wireless to its 40 most disconnected neighborhoods. After identifying over 130 organizations working to address various aspects of the digital divide, community partnership SA Digital Connects is seeking sustainable, long-term solutions that harness collective resources and collaboration to build high-quality infrastructure. Responding to the needs of local partners, SA Digital Connects released an ACP toolkit and enrollment guide to help community organizations assist with program applications.

The City of Austin offers matching grants to community organizations to support local digital inclusion efforts. Through its Grant for Technology Opportunities Program (GTOPs) that was established in 2001, the City of Austin helps sustain the ecosystem of local organizations working to improve digital outcomes for residents. Additionally, the City has a dedicated team member to conduct community outreach activities to increase ACP enrollment and coordinate with other supporters and Travis County.

Learn more about these and many other community stories in Broadband Makes Us Better: Lessons from the Lone Star State

Broadband By All and For All

Local leaders are on-the-ground points of contact who help residents take advantage of broadband programs, filling trust barriers between federal leaders and community members. In a world where everyone has a role to play in expanding and improving broadband access and adoption, local governments are collaborating with residents and area nonprofits to maximize community impact

View the press release.

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