New study takes look at county internet connection
With a number of students across Freestone County choosing to learn remotely in the 2020-21 school year, the need for functioning technology and connectivity becomes more important than ever.
The county’s internet service speeds are at the forefront for those students learning from home, as well as for residents continuing to work from home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
One study looking at the county’s internet connectivity was made by Connected Nation Texas, which according to the organizations website, is “an independent, public & private initiative working to ensure that all can experience the benefits of broadband.”
CN Texas has created maps of Texas counties based on broadband service connectivity speeds, seeing which areas lack the requisite connection for school and work tasks.
The first map shown on the website details the amount of county households having internet service with speeds of at least 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload. For comparison, the average download speed in the United States is 18.7 Mbps.
Freestone County was shown to have 77.37 percent of households under this availability, with 1,643 households unserved at this speed. While the majority of the county is covered, several areas lack this connectivity. The map shows more than half of the city of Teague greyed out, or lacking the 10 Mpbs/1 Mpbs connection.
Other areas lacking connection include TX-179 between Teague and Dew, as well as households on US-84 between Teague and Fairfield.
Comparing counties, Limestone County is shown to have 95.25 percent of households covered under the 10 Mpbs/1 Mpbs connection, with 403 households unserved.
The next map showed coverage under the minimum speed of the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) definition of broadband connection, which is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Freestone shows 61.99 percent of households accounted for with this connectivity speed, while 2,759 households remain unserved. The map shows similarly greyed out areas, while showing more lack of connectivity for the eastern portion of the county, east of Fairfield.
The study showed a comparison to other local counties at the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps connection speeds, with the following counties measured:
-Limestone County: 90.18 percent of county covered, 835 households unserved;
-Leon County: 62.33 percent of county covered, 2,598 households unserved;
-Anderson County: 87.32 percent of county covered, 2,184 households unserved;
-Hill County: 100 percent of county covered, 0 households unserved;
-Henderson County: 95.77 percent of county covered, 1,313 households unserved;
-Robertson County: 78.02 percent of county covered, 1,438 households unserved;
-McLennan County: 100 percent of county covered, 0 households unserved;
-Falls County: 97.75 percent of county covered, 142 households unserved;
-Bosque County: 100 percent of county covered, 0 households unserved;
-Houston County: 69.6 percent of county covered, 2,631 households unserved;
-Madison County: 19.52 percent of county covered, 3,370 households unserved.
Expanding the map farther for Freestone, the county serves 59.71 percent of households with connection speeds of at least 50 Mbps download/5 Mbps upload, and serves 21.71 percent of households with speeds of at least 100 Mbps download/10 Mbps upload.
The study comes as state lawmakers continue to attempt the pumping of funds to the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF), which implements programs to assist Texans in obtaining basic telecommunication services.
TUSF is currently funded by a fee or surcharge assessed on telecommunications providers’ receipts for certain services. Currently, this surcharge rate is 3.3 percent, with state officials aiming to bump it up to 6.4 percent, which would add about a dollar a month to customers’ telephone bills.
Failure to secure more funding from a higher surcharge rate would spell disaster for TUSF and its goals for Texas residents.
“TUSF, the high-cost and small and rural programs in particular, is what has given the opportunity for small and rural telecommunications providers to build and maintain the foundational network platform that allows rural Texans to remain connected. Without it, that network would fail,” said State Rep. James White, R-Hillister.
To view more of Connected Nation Texas’ findings, visit https://connectednation.org/texas/2020-county-maps/.