From Dial Up to Fiber: How Connected Helped Anchor an Arts Community

Marfa, Texas (September 10, 2018) – The City of Marfa is a town of  just under 2,000 people that sits in far west Texas just an hour from the Mexico border. Located between the Davis Mountains and Big Bend National Park, Marfa’s population swells with tourists because of its reputation as a cultural center for artist.

“The town and the entire Big Ben region, really, are driven by tourism. Thousands and thousands of visitors come here from across the U.S. and overseas,” said Daniel Hernandez, Economic Development Coordinator, Rio Grande Council of Governments. “We have lots of small businesses that need reliable broadband internet to not only thrive but survive. We’ve had issues before where a line was cut because of an oil dig or bad service and they can’t even access an ATM or run a credit card. Imagine what that does to a business.”

That’s why in 2014 local leaders decided to tackle the lack of reliable access head on and contacted Connected Nation.

“We used our Connected Community Engagement Program to assess the needs of the area,” said Tom Stephenson, a Community Technology Advisor for CN. “We work with a broadband committee formed with local stakeholders who leverage the Connected program. It provides a structured and comprehensive analysis of broadband landscape to develop community-specific Technology Action Plans.”

It quickly became obviously that there was a big need to upgrade services in the area. The area hadn’t seen fiber service before, only dial-up. Following the Connected survey, City of Marfa leaders were approached by Big Ben Telephone—they wanted the contract as an anchor institution and would work to begin upgrading services.

“They started with the school district and from there mapped out their fiber network into different areas of town,” Hernandez said. “They put in a radio tower for those who couldn’t get to the fiber. They built in redundancies that were identified as a need in the Technology Action Plan because of how large the area is and it’s working out well for many in our region.”

Not only has the City of Marfa and the surrounding county seen improved connections for businesses and residents, but it has led to a boom in the real estate market.

“The prices are higher for both those who are buying or rental vacation homes,” Hernandez said. “Part of that is because we’re able to have access to some of these services now. People aren’t as keen to buy or rent in areas that don’t have it. Everyone these days expects internet access to connect with their loved ones, get their news or email, and more. It’s no longer a luxury if you want to stay in business—it’s a priority.”

To learn more about the Connected Community Engagement Program head to www.connectmycommunity.org.

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