BEAUMONT, Texas — For years, rural Texas has been on the "wrong side" of the digital divide. But major money from the Federal Communications Commission should change that.
The pandemic and remote learning has only amplified the need for internet service.
More than $362 million will be divided between Texas counties to help boost internet access.
Imagine browsing the internet, and suddenly it freezes. For areas in rural Texas, this happens often. But with help at the federal and state level, access to reliable internet service should improve.
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"The internet is so very important," said State Representative James White.
He said with more people working from home, schools switching to online learning and people shopping online, access to the internet is crucial.
For those in rural Texas, it can be hard.
"Still having that reliable internet connectivity...what is does is enhances the educational opportunity for our youth,” White said.
A 2020 state broadband report shows Texas is one of six states without a broadband plan. It shows the state also has problems with regulations, coordination, transparency, and purchased technology.
That's where the FCC comes into play. The government agency approved more than $362 million to expand broadband internet in rural areas.
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"We are really excited about this," White said. And that money will go toward paying the service providers.
Of the $362 million, Southeast Texas counties will receive about $35 million.
That's 9.8 percent of the funding. This graph shows how much money each county will receive.
Jasper County will get the most money and Jefferson County will receive the least. Jasper County's $13 million is the the most of any Texas county, according to the document.
"We are providing connectivity to real entities like school districts and hospitals, and we are covering real people," White said.
So, what about the infrastructure? Representative White said the state is working on a bill.
"It would enhance it and expedite getting the infrastructure up so we will have reliable internet," White said.
Representative White said the funding from the FCC and the bill that officials are working on to present to the Texas House will be a game changer for rural areas in bridging the gap in the digital divide.
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