The City of Brownsville announced during an online press conference on Friday that Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc will donate $75,000 and Texas Regional Bank $15,000 to improve local broadband access.
The money will be used in part for the Zoo Demonstration Project, which the city refers to as “lighten up the zoo” which intends to give the zoo a 21st century connectivity solution. The money will also be used for telehealth —which became an even stronger necessity in Brownsville with COVID-19— and to build a regional advocacy plan.
“I’m a big believer that partnerships develop other partnerships,” Ramiro Gonzalez, director of Government & Community Affairs for the City of Brownsville, said. “I fully expect more partners to come on board as the wheel turns quicker.”
The partnerships come in response to the City of Brownsville and community partners advocacy for reliable and affordable broadband internet service to help close the digital divide and homework gap impacting residents.
According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Brownsville currently ranks as the worst-connected city in the country with the least access to fixed broadband.
“This partnership with The City of Brownsville, in closing the digital divide, is really a top priority for us at Methodist Healthcare Ministries,”Jaime Wesolowski, president & CEO Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc., said.
“Removing this structural barrier to accessing healthcare, educational opportunities and promoting upward economic mobility for families are pillars for thriving communities. These are so central to our vision and our mission.”
Methodist is a private, faith-based not-for-profit dedicated to creating access to health care for low-income families and the uninsured.
Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez said because of COVID-19 the community has learned to see even more so the value of being connected. He said it is important to prioritize affordability and accessibility of the broadband access.
“We know where we are, we know where we want to go and the question now is going to be raising the funds and raising the money necessary to get this done,” he said. “I have all the confidence in the world that we will be able to do that with the help of partners.”
Mendez said the Broadband Master Plan has been of utmost importance during 2020. He said this could not have been done without partners.