Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Texas Broadband: Texas Partners with Connected Nation to Map Broadband Availability

(Vocus/PRWEB ) via 07/29/09 Yesterday, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced a partnership between the Texas Department of Agriculture and Connected Nation, a national nonprofit, to create a broadband initiative called Connected Texas and to develop a detailed broadband inventory map to better position Texas for competitive funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

The map, which will feature the information of participating broadband providers large and small, is expected to serve as a key asset for the state as it prepares for federal stimulus funding to support broadband investment.

"We are excited about this new partnership," Commissioner Staples said. "Connected Nation will help Texas close the digital divide between urban and rural communities in our state. By creating a broadband map, we will learn which areas are unserved and underserved. This critical knowledge will lead to developing projects that bring high-speed Internet to all Texans, which will enhance economic development, expand educational opportunities, and improve health care."

The Texas broadband map, which will be a function of Connected Texas, will feature a collaborative, public-private approach to broadband mapping, as Congress prescribed in the Broadband Data Improvement Act (BDIA) of 2008. The map will illustrate broadband service availability at the street level, based on information from all types of providers across Texas, including cable, telephone, wireless Internet service providers, rural cooperatives, and municipalities. Most importantly, the broadband map will illustrate the service gaps that remain in rural and other remote locations. This information will best prepare Texas for a sound, yet aggressive approach to improving broadband adoption.

The Texas map will be developed under the leadership of the Texas Department of Agriculture. Through a rigorous system of broadband data collection, GIS analysis, and data verification, Connected Texas’s mapping project will determine where broadband service is currently available to Texas households statewide and, more importantly, the gaps in coverage where households are not served by any broadband provider.

Currently, more than $7 billion is available through the ARRA for broadband projects nationwide. In the ARRA, $350 million fund the BDIA. These grant funds are available for states to develop public-private partnerships for grassroots-driven expansion of broadband and computer use, particularly among unserved and underserved populations.

Connected Nation conducted a recent study of the impact of public-private broadband expansion programs funded through the BDIA and the ARRA. The study found that a comprehensive, grassroots-driven program for increased broadband access and use in Texas could result in a total economic impact of $9.4 billion through the creation of more than 173,000 jobs and cost savings in areas such as health care and the environment and through activities such as telecommuting.

"The federal government has set the expectation that states must be able to illustrate the extent of broadband coverage in order to prioritize broadband stimulus investments for unserved and underserved areas," said Brian R. Mefford, Connected Nation’s CEO. "Our partnership and the creation of a broadband map will provide Texas the opportunity to address the areas of Texas where broadband is not readily available. This will better position Texas for the broadband opportunities provided by the ARRA."
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