With the need for broadband Internet access acutely heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bastrop County, Texas, is partnering with a nonprofit to analyze accessibility around the county.
(TNS) — With the need for broadband Internet access heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bastrop County is partnering with a nonprofit to analyze accessibility around the county.
The county's newly formed Bastrop County Broadband Committee has partnered with the nonprofit Connected Nation Texas to identify areas with deficient Internet access and to find solutions to bring those areas online.
According to broadband research company BroadbandNow, 81% of people in the county have access to Internet at speeds above 25 megabits per second, which is the minimum broadband speed as defined by the Federal Communications Commission. Around 75% of people have access to Internet speeds of 100 mbps or greater, which is about 15% lower than the state average. And under 10% of the county has access to speeds of 1 gigabit per second, which is about 30% lower than the state average.
"Access to health care through the Internet is key to providing our community with vital information as well as effective care," said Bastrop County Health Authority Desmar Walkes, who is leading the local response to the coronavirus pandemic. "The lack of consistent Internet service in Bastrop County limits public access to care, which ultimately costs all of us time, money and, in some cases, lives."
The project, funded by Bastrop County Cares, will compile input from local Internet service providers, residents and business owners. Last month, Connected Nation Texas launched a survey for residents, businesses and community organizations in the county. The surveys are specific to the types of Internet users, such as domestic users, agricultural users, educators and heath care providers.
The survey data will be used to develop a Bastrop County technology action plan using a Connected Nation program — which charts a course for accelerating local access — that has already developed more than 350 plans for communities across the country.
"It's so important that everyone take part in this and share what they can about their Internet access," said Bastrop County Cares Excutive Director Debbie Bresette.
"We understand that our children deserve strong Internet service so they can complete their school assignments, area adults need service so they can work, local senior citizens need service so they can access telehealth options for care, and our businesses need service so they can compete not just locally but globally, keeping their tax dollars here at home," she said.
The survey will be available for approximately 90 days since its July launch.
©2020 Austin American-Statesman, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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