Texas College Closes the Gap Through Access to Technology

Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Texas College has been awarded a $2 million Connecting Minority Communities (CMC) Grant, also referred to as the Communities Connected Project, from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiative Internet for All. The significance of the program garners a major impact not only on the Texas College campus, but throughout the broader community as well.

As the technological landscape continues to rapidly evolve and engrain itself into everyday life, there are still many technologically underserved populations, especially in terms of internet access and technology literacy. Due to a variety factors, such as broadband internet infrastructure limitations in certain locations, cost of service, and lack of skills or knowledge to use it, individuals forego internet access and mainstream tech devices, despite their increasing value as essential utilities in the modern era. Congruently, these "tech savvy" traits and internet access are also vital components necessary to equip students for the modern world of work. This grant, which spans over a two-year period, will directly address the aforementioned concerns and make an indelible mark by providing internet at broadband speeds, as well as useful equipment, to underserved communities and to Texas College students.

The foundation of Texas College's Communities Connected Project is to strengthen access to the bandwidth needed by the College and its students, as well as the surrounding community, so that Texas College may successfully convert the potential liability of technological stagnation into a formidable asset.

Texas College's fulfillment of the aforementioned is already underway. Faculty in the disciplines of education, science, technology, social science, and social work, as well as administrative staff, have assumed a pivotal role by providing training to the campus community and beyond. With outreach to residential areas of Tyler, as well as throughout Smith County, Texas College has been able to host a variety of workshops for a multitude of populations, inclusive of:

  • The C.M.E. Leadership Institute;
  • Summer Transition Enrichment Program (STEP) students;
  • Leadership Auxiliaries;
  • Texas College faculty and staff; and
  • Multiple community groups.

Throughout these workshops, individuals have received training, digital badges, digital devices, software subscriptions, and digital hotspots, which are provided through the CMC grant funding. In this regard, Texas College has and will continue to provide internet access to community partners through the provision of hot-spots for a two-year subscription service, as well as beneficial AI training to enhance the use of software and useful applications.

Texas College's goal for this project remains to expand access to bandwidth, the very foundation for the achievement of educational accessibility in a world that is rapidly transitioning from manual/in-person approaches to electronic tools for teaching and learning. The College has a keen interest to serve high schools, small businesses, healthcare entities, and other unfunded/underfunded partners that can provide needed support to both Texas College students, as well as the community.

The Texas College campus at-large will see improved internet speed. The campus' access to broadband internet will increase from six gigabytes per second (Gbps) to 10 Gbps through the installation of Cat6 cable inside the existing Cat5 raceways throughout the campus. The work to increase speed will begin after the request for review from the Texas Historical Preservation Office (THPO).

Given that Texas College's 129-year old campus maintains multiple historical landmarks listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), the THPO review is necessary to accommodate the NTIA’s request that efforts to increase broadband access, and/or additional wiring, has the assurance that construction will not deface or compromise the historical architecture of campus buildings. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the proposed Gbps speed upgrade is under evaluation for its potential effects to districts, sites, buildings, structures, or objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or culture, that are listed or potentially eligible for listing in the NRHP. Texas College has requested the Texas Historical Commission to review and comment on the proposed project to ensure any potential adverse effects would be avoided, minimized, and/or mitigated. No ground disturbance is anticipated since the devices will utilize existing raceways to install the Cat6 cabling; no new conduit is proposed.