TTA Executive Director Update December 2020

Real Data for the Broadband Debate

This summer, I asked our member companies to undertake a digital mapping project so we could accurately represent to individual legislators the phone companies serving customers in their legislative districts, the number of access lines and customers in those districts, and the amount of state funding and phone company capital expenditures made in those districts.

As that initiative began, we quickly realized we could provide an even more valuable service. Throughout the conversations our public officials engage in relating to the “digital divide,” a focus has been put on the availability of broadband facilities around our state and how to identify the location of those facilities.

Certain groups have taken it upon themselves to create maps of broadband facilities and the speeds delivered by those facilities and tout these maps to decision-makers as an accurate representation of the telecommunications infrastructure in our state. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

While the goal of identifying where broadband facilities are lacking has value, the data used by these groups is often over 18 months old, or it is the result of “surveys” conducted in certain areas – often reporting data from sources whose responses can be questionable. Many phone companies have voluntarily shared their facilities data with these groups, only to later have concerns about how the data is used, who it is shared with or sold to, and how potentially proprietary information is safeguarded.

To address these concerns, TTA member companies are participating in an intensive data reporting initiative, providing gigabytes of information to a team of analytic and digital mapping experts from various TTA companies.

This data is being funneled into a powerful analytic software to create accurate, up-to-date maps and data on where telecommunications infrastructure has been deployed across TTA member companies and other areas of the state. We have received inquiries from state agencies, higher education institutions, and even one of our competitors, asking us to provide maps to them as word is beginning to get out that TTA is leading the way with accurate maps.

With these maps, we can show the success stories of our member companies and the forward-thinking investments they have made in infrastructure to expand and modernize the rural phone networks in Texas – investing over $1.4 Billion in the last 10 years. And, with accurate and very current data, we can keep decision-makers aware of where the facilities have been built, and where investment has been lacking – accurately depicting Rural Broadband facilities as they discuss the state’s role in how further infrastructure should be funded.

Mark Seale, Executive Director
Texas Telephone Association
mseale@tta.org

It is the goal of TTA to build stronger relationships and have open communication between all its members. Your story is real. Your story is important. Your story makes a difference. Our goal is to hear and share your story with folks in Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.

TTA Board of Directors