Partnerships will drive deployment, low-cost and no-cost internet, and digital equity
Note: The following is an OpEd column from Mayor of Amarillo, Ginger Nelson.
The City of Amarillo is forging a new path in Texas as the first major city to marry the power of the private sector with American Rescue Plan funding to drive the deployment of high-speed, high-security Internet connections throughout our community.
Through a standard and transparent procurement process, we recently awarded AT&T, an experienced and proven broadband provider, the contract to make Internet connections available throughout our city. This was done through an investment of over $20 million from AT&T.
Through this partnership, AT&T will install fiber optics to connect homes, apartments, schools and other government buildings and businesses in Amarillo. This extended fiber network will be the fastest among major providers and will offer symmetrical speeds of up to 5 gigabytes on uploads and downloads. It is super-fast internet, allowing a user to stream ultra-HD quality videos to up to 4 devices at the same time or download an entire music album in about seven seconds.
Internet access plans will be free for citizens who qualify for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, in an effort to bridge the digital divide here in Amarillo.
This is the first such large-scale project in Texas, and we are proud to lead the way and set an example for other cities and local governments. At Amarillo, we considered several options to get the most out of those dollars before choosing to engage in a public-private partnership – a solution that will allow us to leverage federal dollars and private sector funds.
We suffered from a digital divide like many communities across Texas, but we are also unique in that Amarillo has a large refugee population. According to the Refugee Language Project, “12,000 refugees have settled in Amarillo and 59% of this population is enrolled in the English as a second language program”.
As we all know, internet access and educational opportunities are vital for all of us. Helping all Amarillo residents connect is essential.
Indeed, thanks to this collaboration, we have been able to considerably increase our investments and better serve local residents. Plus, we’re able to leverage the expertise of a proven vendor and ensure our taxpayers don’t foot the bill for the ongoing upgrades, daily maintenance, and security enhancements required by the infrastructure. Internet.
Providing connectivity is only the first step. The city has also developed partnerships with several agencies such as the Amarillo Area Foundation, Region 16, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center to help with digital education, once our new fiber infrastructure is operational. These partnerships will help us create digital equity, including access to devices, training and digital literacy so that the power of our new infrastructure is accessible to everyone.
Our program is for today and for the future. We recognize that consumer demand for network speed and capacity will only increase. With AT&T, we have a scalable broadband network, which means they will have the ability to implement even faster speeds as consumer needs increase.
Amarillo takes the initiative to ensure that all of its residents have access to the global web and its myriad uses – from education to workforce development to healthcare and more. AT&T, with a long tradition of communications excellence, is the right choice in this historic project that will benefit the entire Amarillo community and serve as a model for other cities and communities to follow in connecting their residents to the digital age.