Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced Connected Nation has been selected to measure and map the availability and use of broadband in the state of Texas.

“We are excited about this new partnership,” Commissioner Staples said. “Connected Nation will help Texas close the digital divide between urban and rural communities in our state. By creating a broadband map, we will learn what areas are unserved and underserved. This critical knowledge will lead to developing projects that bring high-speed Internet to all Texans, which will enhance economic development, expand educational opportunities and improve health care.”

Connected Nation is a non-profit corporation that facilitates public-private partnerships to increase access and use of broadband and related technology. The corporation mapped Kentucky and is currently working with nine other states to produce broadband maps.

Today’s announcement coincides with Gov. Rick Perry’s designation of the Texas Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) and the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC), as the lead agency in coordinating broadband expansion activities created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In this role, TDA will assist in reviewing and recommending federal stimulus grant applications for projects located in Texas. Congress has appropriated $7.2 billion for broadband infrastructure loans and grants.

TDA, PUC and PSC will consider the following when reviewing and prioritizing projects:

• Impact on the state and local economy;

• Number of Texans to gain broadband access;

• Ability to provide sustainable broadband service where currently no broadband service exists;

• Level of service provided, including downstream and upstream speed;

• Sustainability and potential to expand broadband access in future years through non-federal investment;

• Ability to use existing infrastructure to increase broadband access and availability;

• Ability to harmonize the goal of providing necessary broadband services to suppliers of critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, educational institutions, emergency responders, fire departments, health care providers, law enforcement, public libraries and local governmental institutions with the goal of providing increased broadband access and availability to all Texans, including rural areas and unserved or underserved urban areas;

• Ability to address specific priorities identified in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program;

• Ability to exceed federal match requirement;

• Efforts to create partnerships, including public-private partnerships; and

• Demonstrated local support.

The completion of the initial phase of broadband mapping for Texas is expected by Feb. 1, 2010. Local government officials are encouraged to participate in a broadband access survey to assist TDA in identifying areas of the state that currently do not have broadband service. To access the survey, as well as reference material on broadband issues and the federal plan to allocate stimulus funds, click on Broadband for All Texans at www.TexasAgriculture.gov.