Approximately 200 Texans from across the Lone Star State traveled to San Antonio earlier this week to discuss opportunities to extend broadband to unserved and underserved communities in the fourth of 10 public broadband workshops held nationally. The demand for broadband is sweeping the nation and changing the way we live, work and stay connected to loved ones.
Rural communities without access to broadband are falling into a technological gap that will affect generations if not rectified quickly. Recent studies show that while 80 percent of Texas is classified as rural, only 38 percent of this demographic has access to the internet. That equates to 62 percent of our state’s rural population not having access to the worldwide marketplace, educational information, and telemedicine.
“The opportunity has never been greater for rural communities to benefit from recovery act funds that will improve broadband services and enhance rural business entrepreneurship, educational distance learning and telemedicine capabilities, while diversifying farmers and ranchers marketing capabilities,” commented Paco Valentin, USDA Rural Development Texas State Director.
Keynote speaker, USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Victor Vasquez, outlined the President’s goal to stimulate the economy and the importance of broadband to communities in rural areas – to businesses, citizens and anchor institutions. He said everyone has a need for broadband connection which will enable them to meet the challenges of competing in a global economy and to be in the mainstream of trade and the cultural evolution. He stressed the importance of listening to the changes and the details of the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) in order to compete favorably and that building networks were as important to building the infrastructure as they are to building good business coalitions.
Workshop attendees were given information on how to apply for the second round of broadband grants and loans under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is making $4.8 billion available to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure. The desire is strong among community leaders to ensure rural Texans step onto the information bandwagon sooner rather than later. Applications will be accepted until March 15, 2010 and all awards will be announced by September 30, 2010.
For information on more workshops and archived webcasts, visit http://www.broadbandusa.gov. Additional forums will be held over the next two weeks at the following locations: February 4, Sioux Falls, SD; February 5, Detroit, MI; February 9, Blacksburg, VA; February 11, Fayetteville, NC; and February 12, Atlanta, GA.
USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development, Victor Vasquez, addresses the Broadband Workshop in San Antonio, Texas.
USDA Rural Development Texas State Director, Paco Valentin, welcomes participants to the Broadband Workshop in San
Written by Gayle Cargo, Public Information Coordinator, Rural Development-Texas