Texans living in rural areas expressed their desire for reliable internet access on Wednesday during the final leg of the Texas Broadband Listening Tour at the University of Texas at Tyler Soules College of Business.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar spoke at the event about closing the “digital divide” in the state. This was the eighth of 12 steps Hegar has completed with the Texas Broadband Development Office.
The visit was intended to better understand Internet access and gather information to develop the state’s first broadband plan, according to the comptroller’s office.
“This broadband office is about connecting Texas,” Hegar said. “The sad reality is that today, out of the state’s population, 7 million Texans have no connectivity. Even if they wanted to have connectivity, there is no connectivity.
He said Wednesday’s shutdown helps the broadband office hear and understand what’s going on in the Tyler area when it comes to internet access.
“As we know, there are a lot of places in the state where they have service, but it’s not very good,” he said.
The Broadband Office was formed with the passage of House Bill 5.
“I don’t represent anything here except people who live in the country and don’t have broadband,” said Shannon Ramsey of Timpson in southeast Coke County.
Ramsey said that according to the Federal Communications Commission, good broadband access equates to 25 megabits per second for downloading and 3 megabits per second for uploading.
“If you’re in the town of Timpson, if you work at the library or the bank or the pharmacy or the post office, you don’t see 25 megabits. You are lucky to see 15 peaks,” he said.
He added that people with data plans may be able to get the best broadband connection if they live near a tower.
Ramsey and others in the rural area are “eager” to have a high-speed connection so they can have internet access on par with big cities, he said.
“We’re ready for broadband – bring it,” he told Hegar.
Patti Menefee, who lives in Van Zandt County, said she used to live in Plano, so she could see the significant speed difference.
“I should be able to work remotely in any county in Texas and anywhere in Texas,” Menefee said. “I should be able to live the life before what I lived in Plano.”
“Why is (broadband) not a public service? ” she asked. “You can’t do anything without the Internet.”
Even after the tour is over, Hegar said the Texans are still encouraged to continue providing commentary. Public comment on broadband in Texas will be taken until May 5.