A month after the Wharton Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced it was seeking the public’s input to understand Wharton County’s high speed internet service needs, a survey is still being solicited from those who are 18 years and older.

WEDC officials said the survey, which takes about 10 minutes to complete, is the first step towards expanding internet access throughout the county.

WEDC is not in this endeavor alone. It is working with the Wharton Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture, and El Campo’s Development Corporation. The three entities have partnered with Connected Nation to determine answers to questions about high speed internet. They have each said better internet coverage for Wharton County begins with a resident.

To participate, the survey can be found at the following website: www.myconnectedcommunity.org/wharton-county.

Connected Nation said data gathering is the first step for improving one’s internet connection. 

When one visits the website to participate in the survey, the person is asked what best represents their role in the community. 

“You may take more than one survey if you have more than one role in the community, (e.g. you own a home in the community and own a small business, or you own a home in the community and work at the library, etc.,” Connected Nation explains.

It is divided up into nine roles. All of them, with the exception of “household,” provides a summary of how internet affects it:

• Business – Positive economic activity in a community depends on the success of its private-sector business establishments to develop new and innovative products, provide services, attract investment, and create jobs. Small business establishment and growth, entrepreneurship, and innovation are hallmarks of the American economic system, and internet connectivity, coupled with new technology, devices, and applications, is perpetuating these ideals in new and exciting ways.

• Agriculture – Agriculture, in its many forms, is a critical industry and economic driver for many communities and regions. However, producers and value-added agriculture industries are generally located in the most rural areas; areas that are most often disconnected from the global economy. For operations fortunate enough to have an internet connection, their use of technology has transformed their operations and allows them to contribute to the economic activity of their communities.

• Health – Access to quality healthcare is essential for quality of life in any community. From access to emergency services and family practitioners, to specialists, laboratories, and mental health services, access to healthcare provides opportunities for all to live healthy, fulfilling lives. New healthcare technology developments offer not only new treatments and methods of diagnosis, but also greater access to healthcare providers via the internet. This is especially critical for two primary groups; 1. Those living in rural communities that may not have a local presence for various specialty healthcare providers, and 2. Those unable to physically visit a doctor’s office due to medical conditions or other issues.

• Higher education – Post-secondary education contributes significantly to the talent and workforce development of a community. While the structure of K-12 education is relatively similar from one community to the next, higher education can take many forms. From community colleges and traditional universities to trade schools, higher education offers a variety of educational programs and content to meet the needs of the community. Higher education can also be an attraction for the community, drawing students and faculty from abroad. Similar to K-12 institutions, higher education has many opportunities to leverage Internetenabled technologies to facilitate a more robust learning environment.

• Kinder-12 – K-12 institutions are the cornerstone of a community’s educational system. K-12 education provides students with the knowledge and opportunity to become productive members of the next generation workforce. Schools, along with libraries, have traditionally been early adopters of new technologies, not only as the subject of education, but also as the tools. For this analysis, the Connected assessment is focused on the way in which internet-enabled devices and applications are tools for enhancing the learning environment and providing students with opportunities beyond the classroom. Additionally, the assessment examines the use of technology that allows schools to more effectively communicate with parents, students, and the community at large.

• Libraries and Organizations – Libraries and other community organizations serve a vital role in providing access to information and technology for the entire community. Libraries often host public computers with internet access for those without a device or connection at home, and also provide various types of technology training to develop a more digitally literate community.

• Public Safety – Police, fire, and emergency medical services, along with other supporting staff and organizations, are critical to the health, safety, and well-being of a community. As with the other critical sectors of a community, broadband-enabled technology has changed and improved the ways in which public safety entities serve and protect. Additionally, the internet has also brought about a new wave of criminal activity known as cyber crime. From fraud and identity theft, to hacking, spam, and ransom ware, cyber security and prevention, and the swift investigation and response to cyber crime from local, state, and federal law enforcement can help keep a community safe from virtual threats.

• Government – Residents and businesses in a community are served by several political subdivisions. From municipalities such as cities, villages, and townships, to boroughs, counties, regional development groups, utility districts, local expressions of state and federal agencies, and many others, communities comprise several overlapping jurisdictions, all with varying responsibilities. Internet connectivity and related broadband-enabled applications, allows these political subdivisions to take advantage of new and innovative ways to deliver existing or additional services to the public. E-government services allow citizens to conduct business and communicate with their local units of government and political subdivisions more efficiently and conveniently, allowing for greater civic participation and efficient use of public resources.

Connected Nation reminds those who take the survey the answers to the questions are critical and would be combined with others to identify the current need for improved internet access and support in one’s municipality. 

“This information will then be used to develop action plans with local broadband providers and other contributing organizations to improve technology and Internet service and support in our community,” Connected Nation explained. “This project will assess the current status of broadband access, adoption, and use in our area so we can develop a Broadband Technology Action Plan to improve the quality of life and economic potential in our community.”

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