Partnership to close digital divide in the Region
Region One ESC has partnered with Connect Humanity, a non-profit fund for digital equity, and the City of Pharr to encourage investment in the digitalization of businesses in South Texas in a bid to drive economic growth.
During a press announcement held April 11, 2023, Connect Humanity announced a $10 million fund to invest in this work. The Ford Foundation seeded the fund with $250,000 to catalyze contributions from state and federal broadband grant programs, as well as other philanthropic and financial institutions.
The partnership, which also includes local internet service providers: VTX1 Companies, BTX Fiber, and SmartCom, will offer a one-year subscription subsidy for high-speed internet, a no-to-low-interest loan for hardware and software, and digital skills training to micro- and small-business entrepreneurs, community health clinics, and nonprofits serving low-and moderate-income communities across the border region.
“This Fund is a necessary next step on our digital journey as we ensure that every student, every neighborhood, and now, every entrepreneur, has the broadband they need to thrive," Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Mayor of the City of Pharr.
This partnership plans to begin by connecting 50 businesses and organizations in Hidalgo County. The project will partner with ISPs to deliver fiber-to-the premises, provide subsidies for affordable subscriptions, offer low-interest loans to ensure businesses can digitize operations, and provide skills training to help them get the most from digital tools.
Connect Humanity also aims to raise support through a combination of philanthropic funds, government grants, and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) investments to roll out the project across the Texas border region.
“We have the tools we need to transform the Texas Rio Grande Valley from one of this country’s least-connected regions into a digital leader," said Jordana Barton-Garcia, project lead at Connect Humanity.
This initiative has the potential to launch our school systems, businesses, and workforce toward unprecedented achievements. It will also attract new investments and spark growth within our region,” said Dr. Daniel P. King, Region One Education Service Center Executive Director.