RS 1: Las Milpas

‘Closing The Digital Divide’: Connecting The Least Connected In Texas

Brandon Marquez, a high school student in Las Milpas like many of his fellow neighbors does not have access to Internet at home. Flahive points out that if Marquez needs to complete an assignment for school he has to go to the public library. If this is not possible then Marquez has to find a 24-hour restaurant that has Wi-Fi. Fahive reports that the Texas-Mexico border is an area, where Marquez lives, is one of the least connected in the states. The Federal Reserve Bank reports that less than 60 percent of these people have access to Internet within their homes. According to the superintendent of Marquez’s school district there are attempts at changing this statistic, which includes connecting “50 students to broadband internet for free as a year-long pilot program for something much larger.” It is stated that there are many neighborhoods with poor infrastructure, which contributes to difficulties with Internet installation, along the border. These are called colonias. Colonias have been mentioned to have been “absorbed into the city” so that infrastructure issues may be addressed. But the main thing people are waiting for, according to Flahive, is the Internet. It is noted that in Las Milpas “ nearly half the people live under the federal poverty line”. There has been difficulty getting people to get wireless internet and it is mentioned by installers that this could be due to a person’s immigration status or maybe a warrant status or even a language barrier that is unable to be bridged. Installers also report that the structure of homes at times cause difficulty installing internet due to “The wood on the house [being] so bad [that they have] to use different screws and bits to secure it to the masonry”. The Federal Reserve Bank believes that there is a way to help neighborhoods like the ones in Las Milpas with issues dealing with access to health care to job training as well as education. It is believed that providing access to the Internet will do so. It is reported that with the help of the Federal Reserve, banks, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the school district, the city plans on building its own fiber-optic network. This network would connect 19 city buildings, 27 schools, as well as a public library. They are to be placed near low-income neighborhoods. Once this is accomplished the city may be able to expand free Wi-Fi and explore leasing the cable to Internet providers who can sell low-cost Internet to lower income communities.

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