MCALLEN, Texas – Stakeholders from across Hidalgo County should collaborate to address the digital divide.

This is the opinion of David C. Plummer, vice president of information services and planning at South Texas College. 

Plummer gave an update on STC activities at a recent McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting.

Plummer said it is great to push more courses on online but what happens if students do not have access to the Internet. He said STC students are affected by this.

“Having hotspots on our campus is great but at the very beginning there was no travel, they do not want anybody on our campuses. So, how are students getting online if they don’t have it at home? If they do not have access to those digital hotspots?” Plummer asked.

Plummer gave credit to the information technology departments working for Hidalgo County and the City of McAllen. With regard to the latter, he said they did a “great job” opening up some digital hotspots around McAllen.

“It would be great to work together and identify all the hotspots in the county and identify those zones where we really don’t have it. And then see if we can all work together to figure out between our IT partners, the city, the county, how can we at least get some hotspots out to those areas,” Plummer said.

According the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the three metropolitan statical areas in the nation with the least internet connectivity are along the Texas-Mexico border. Namely, McAllen, Brownsville, and Laredo.

“If this (Coronavirus pandemic) occurs again, or even if it doesn’t occur, I think our students really need that broadband wifi. I don’t think any one entity is going to solve it. I think it is going to take all of its to do that,” Plummer said.

In his presentation to the MEDC board, Plummer also gave an update about educational instruction at STC for the Fall semester. He said more courses would be online only, to reduce face-to-face activity on the college’s various campuses.

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