Broadband access for the town of Prosper

By Mary Moon
Special to the Prosper Press
Mary Ann Moon

A report published in May of 2019, was the culmination of a Town wide assessment of Broadband Access for Prosper citizens.  The comprehensive analysis was used to develop a report that discussed the pros and cons of the existing telecommunications assets and offered recommendations for improving broadband access.

The Broadband Team was comprised of Town Manager, Harlan Jefferson, Chuck Springer, Leigh Johnson, Craig Andres, Meigs Miller, David Bristol, Marcus Ray,  John Webb, and Fernando de Velasco.  Understanding that broadband and related technologies have transformed every facet of society, the team’s goal was to identify assets, opportunities and solutions to advancing technology and access to it within our community.

The outcomes for the study led to significant recommendations.  In summary, they were:

o   A focused effort to introduce competition and potentially reduce service pricing in areas only served by one broadband provider.

o   A Public-Private Partnership (P3) allowing Prosper to express some control over the areas served while passing the operational burden on to a private partner.  A P3 arrangement could be leveraged to develop “free” WiFi zones in the city.

o   A grant pool, with funds sourced from TxCDBG, GLO or monies potentially earmarked in Legislation could be set aside to provide financial incentive/support to broadband providers to expand in more rural areas.

o   Training to small businesses regarding the use of websites and social media within them.  

Improvements approved by the Prosper Town Council were:

§  One Help Desk Technician – to provide concierge service to new residents.

§  Wi-Fi for exterior of Town Hall and Library

§  Loaner cellular hot spots

Then, along came COVID.  The pandemic forced, and is forcing, us to move our lives online.  Everything from meetings, to family reunions, school, medical appointments, birthday parties and graduations are happening in digital space.  Our need for broadband infrastructure has quadrupled.   The increased demand has threatened the speed and quality of service.  We must revisit our community’s ability to provide adequate capacity and determine what adjustments are needed to ensure long term reliable service. Combined with our present needs, Prosper continues to grow exponentially.  Are we prepared?

Blair Levin, of Brookings, stated “Even without foreseeing (the) pandemic impact, we envisioned a future that would require broadband sufficient enough to handle the demands of mass telework, remote learning and streaming entertainment.” The Economic Development community, especially those serving rural areas, has understood that without adequate broadband accessibility, healthcare, education, entrepreneurship and workforce training would suffer.  Opportunities for telemedicine, virtual learning, businesses and instructional videos for the workplace, can all be supported by broadband access.  Thus, giving rural communities the ability to grow and provide opportunities for their residents.

Techrepublic has reported some states increased their internet speeds during COVID19.  Wyoming, Alaska, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri did so between 52 and 31%.  Wyoming’s Broadband Council has had a statewide initiative to increase better internet connectivity and speeds to underserved populations.  Much of the push has come as a result to provide economic opportunities.  It has become increasingly important since the arrival of the pandemic.

In a household of four, what often occurs is the following:

·         Leigh watches Netflix while John is browsing the internet for recipes.  David is playing a game on his PS4, as Craig is Facetiming his friends. 

These types of activities, on average, need 12-19 Mbps of Internet speeds.  Add virtual classes, telemedicine consultations, ZOOM meetings and other activities and the need increases.

As a Prosper resident, are you experiencing a need for greater bandwidth?  Is our current broadband infrastructure meeting the needs of your family?  It may be time to reassess our broadband needs, evaluate the recommendations of the Town’s Broadband Access study, encourage our state legislators to make broadband capacity and accessibility a priority and develop a plan to ensure our community’s growth.

 Mary Ann Moon, CEcD, FM, HLM, is executive director of the Prosper Economic Development Corporation. Submit feedback to maryann@prosperedc.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.