New Coalition of Business, Community Leaders Say Continued Investment in Rural Telecommunications Key to Growing Texas Economy
AUSTIN, Texas – Public officials, emergency responders, community leaders, private industry, health care and education professionals, and homeowners announced the formation of Keep Texas Connected, a new coalition seeking to preserve state investment in rural telecommunications services, calling it key to a growing Texas economy.
”The Texas economy depends on a robust, reliable and affordable statewide telecommunications network,” said Joey Anderson, who is mayor of Muenster and first vice chairman of Nortex Communications, a telecommunications provider serving Muenster, Forestburg, Myra, Rosston, Valley View, Valley View East, and rural areas in between. “Investments in telecommunications pay for themselves several times over – financially, economically, and, most important, in the quality of life of every Texan, regardless of where they live and work.”
Texas invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to ensure that rural Texans have access to affordable, reliable, and quality landline telephone services, broadband data transmission, Internet and cell phone towers, all of which require well-maintained wirelines.
Keep Texas Connected, comprised of local government officials, emergency first responders, educational institutions, health care providers, private industry and civic leaders, will urge lawmakers to support legislation that levels the playing field for local telephone companies that want to serve Texas businesses and families with modern,well-maintained wireline networks, even if they don’t live and work in a major metropolitan area.
Over the next several months, the coalition will lead a statewide effort to educate members of the Legislature about the consequences of inaction.
The group has launched a website, www.keeptexasconnected.org, Facebook page, Keep Texas Connected, and Twitter handle, @KeepTxConnected, to inform Texans and encourage them to contact their legislators.
“Residential treatment facilities and other health care providers in rural Texas need the reliable telephone and internet services that are delivered over the wireline networks,” said Jeff Power, vice president of facilities at Sundown Ranch, which is located outside of Canton. “Our doctors, counselors, and administrative staff depend upon reliable telephone and internet service to communicate with other health care professionals, insurance companies, and families of our clients. The reality is that our business, like others, utilize technology that depend upon these services and our demands will only increase over time.”
The cost of providing wireline services to rural areas of the state is exponentially higher than it is in urban areas, because of long distances and less population density.
Rural Texans have enjoyed reliable and affordable wireline telephone service thanks to the federal and state Universal Service Fund programs, or USF, which created a level playing field for companies that want to serve customers outside major metropolitan areas.
However, federal support for the USF is ending, and state support is being cut dramatically. Without the USF, statewide telecommunications infrastructure is in jeopardy.
Failure to act would have serious consequences for Texas families and businesses:
- Well-maintained wireline networks are critical to police, fire, medical and other emergency services that serve Texans who live, work, vacation or travel in rural Texas.
- When hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters hit Texas, the state has to be able to rebuild damaged wireline phone and broadband networks.
- Mobile telephone and other wireless services will suffer without well-maintained wireline networks.
"As an emergency responder with more than 24 years experience fighting fires, the one valuable lesson I have learned is that reliable, accessible communication is the most important resource we can have in an emergency. It can literally mean the difference between saving a life and losing a life,” said Eddie Saenz, a Corpus Christi area firefighter and paramedic.
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About Keep Texas Connected
Through statewide collaboration with key stakeholders, Keep Texas Connected is an alliance of local government officials, emergency first responders, educational institutions, health care providers, industry leaders and private citizens who are dedicated to ensuring that every Texan has access to an affordable, reliable, and high-quality telecommunications network. For more information, visit the coalition Web site at www.keeptexasconnected.org.