In 2016, well before the pandemic, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found that the gap between those with broadband access and those without – often called the digital divide – “leads to further economic, social and political disparities for low-income and underserved populations.”
Even in urban areas with accessible broadband, many households still don’t subscribe to the service. Brownsville, Harlingen and Beaumont ranked in the top 20 of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s 2019 list of worst-connected cities. Texas’ vast rural areas are especially underserved. As of 2016, only 69 percent of rural Texans could access high-speed internet. Many of the barriers to expansion in Texas concern the state’s size, varying population densities and even its terrain.
This digital divide has serious implications: