SAN ANGELO, Texas — Expanding broadband access is another part of President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan. The San Angelo Chamber of Commerce said broadband access is now a necessity for many local West Texas businesses, schools and medical facilities who rely heavily on broadband communication and connectivity.
"It varies from industry to industry, but clearly as we progress into the future, investment into this kind of infrastructure will pay off as new applications come online for everybody," Walt Koenig, president, and CEO of the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce said.
Koenig said making sure broadband is accessible on a city, county, and regional level is the goal.
Koenig said, "We're absolutely connected with all of the Concho Valley communities here at the chamber. In fact, our membership expands far further than the boundaries of San Angelo and we're very interested to make sure that the federal funding that we see coming will be applied appropriately to these communities to ensure that they also have access to these information superhighways as we move into the 21st century."
"We are aware that there are certain areas of town that have good connectivity through fiber-optic connections...fiber to everywhere is the objective and that's what we're looking to do," Koenig said.
Residents who live in rural areas with no access to broadband do not have access to healthcare.
West Texas Counseling & Guidance is a non-profit counseling center providing counseling services for residents across the Concho Valley. Its facility does a hybrid of both face-to-face sessions and tele-counseling.
In March 2020, the health service has 100% tele-counseling. Now approximately 40% of its clients are served through tele-counseling services with the rest being in-person counseling sessions.
Rebecca Zapata, West Texas Counseling & Guidance clinical director, said tele-health services are expected to increase.
"It's here to stay. As long as it is approved by insurance coverage, we definitely are going to continue to offer it as a service for us," Zapata said.
In order to get access to telehealth services such as counseling, clients have to have good connectivity. In order to help bridge this gap, West Texas Counseling & Guidance is currently working to partner with rural West Texas sites to provide the internet capacity for rural clients to have access to.
"Once we identify any barriers, we try to see if there is anything, we can do to work with that client so we can get the services that they need."
The San Angelo Chamber of Commerce is actively reaching out to the market on a global basis and are currently talking with a variety of different companies to see how they would like to possibly participate with the City of San Angelo and greater rural surrounding areas.