PHOTO #1: This map from the Victoria Broadband Improvement Study shows which parts of Victoria are underserved by current internet options.
PHOTO #2: This map from the Victoria Broadband Improvement Study shows a proposed regional broadband network connecting Victoria County with the wider Golden Crescent and Coastal Bend regions.
Nearly 1,000 residents who responded to the recent broadband improvement survey made it clear: Victoria has a problem with reliable, available and affordable internet access. The question is, how do we fix it?
Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as bringing in more providers. As it is, any internet provider is free to set up shop in Victoria (the City doesn’t have exclusive agreements with any of them), but because of the high cost of broadband infrastructure, most providers prefer to do business in metro areas with more potential customers.
Furthermore, unhappiness with current options—or the lack thereof—is just one piece of the puzzle. Survey results and other data show that digital illiteracy, the cost of services and other factors also prevent residents from enjoying the benefits of broadband internet.
All this and more is addressed in the new Victoria Broadband Improvement Study that was presented to the City Council on Oct. 19. The study, which was developed by consulting firm CobbFendley in partnership with the City of Victoria Broadband Commission, draws on survey results, industry experience and targeted stakeholder input to offer solutions for Victoria’s worldwide web woes.
The study highlights four primary recommendations for City leaders:
- Pursue public-private partnerships with service providers. Internet providers have little motivation to come to small cities. By encouraging broadband development through incentives and other means, the City can help to attract more providers, which will improve competitive pricing, service quality and consumer choice.
- Consider expanding targeted fixed wireless and fiber infrastructure to serve underserved residents. Those companies that do come here will probably want to focus their infrastructure in more densely populated parts of Victoria—which would mean passing over rural or low-income neighborhoods where the need for reliable internet is often greatest. The City could play a role in installing infrastructure to serve these communities.
- Partner with community groups and take advantage of digital equity programs to improve adoption. Residents who can’t afford internet access could benefit from the FCC’s Lifeline and Emergency Broadband Benefit programs and private programs designed to help low-income residents get online. The study suggests partnering with schools and community groups to teach residents about these programs and to provide digital literacy education to those who have trouble using the internet.
- Promote the regional broadband initiative sponsored by the Coastal Bend Council of Governments (COG). The Coastal Bend COG is developing a regional broadband network with the help of disaster preparedness funding from the federal government. Supporting this project will help to improve Victoria’s infrastructure and make the city more resilient to hurricanes and similar disasters.
To read the full study and to learn more about the Victoria Broadband Commission, visit www.victoriatx.gov/broadband. To stay up to date with broadband improvement in Victoria, make sure you’re subscribed to The City View and follow us on Facebook at City of Victoria, Texas – Government.
Sam Hankins is the communications specialist for the City of Victoria.