Thousands of Grayson County students lack home Internet access

Around 6,000 students in Grayson County don't have reliable Internet access, according to JJ McGrath, owner of wireless service provider TekWav.
Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 6:34 PM CDT
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - Since the start of the pandemic, Internet access has been essential, especially for students, with schools turning fully or partially to remote learning.

But for many low-income families and those who live in rural areas, that’s not an option.

Around 6,000 students in Grayson County don’t have reliable Internet access, according to JJ McGrath, owner of wireless service provider TekWav.

He’s compiling data from every school district plus the colleges, and once it’s complete, he actually expects that number to be much higher.

“It’s important that they get the same education that kids who have the internet would get,” said Pottsboro Library Director Dianne Connery.

Connery said the pandemic has revealed how much rural areas lack virtual connectivity.

Since March, their WiFi usage increased by 212 percent.

“In Pottsboro, sometimes it’s an issue of infrastructure. Like you just can’t get it at whatever price, and sometimes it’s a financial issue,” Connery said.

Around 20 percent of students and teachers at Pottsboro ISD don’t have Internet.

For Denison ISD, it’s around 17 percent of students.

As of April, close to 14 percent at Sherman ISD needed access and around 16 percent needed devices.

For more rural towns like Tom Bean, the superintendent estimates around 40 to 50 percent.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census, over 13 percent of households in Grayson County don’t have a computer and over 26 percent lack a broadband Internet subscription.

Oklahoma counties face the same problem. Census data shows more than 45 percent of Bryan County homes either don’t have a computer or Internet access.

“If this could be a new way of life, a new way of learning, then we have to vastly change the way we do Internet service and provide Internet service to people,” McGrath said.

Schools are solving the problem with personal hot spots, devices and even WiFi-equipped buses in areas of need.

But even then, there’s issues with spotty coverage and inconsistent speed.

“A lot of these problems, they’re great temporary solutions, but they’re not good long-term solutions,” McGrath said.

“So it’s just a matter of finding the funding to make it available countywide,” Connery said.

TekWav is partnering with Pottsboro Library to work on a county-wide solution.

This month, the library received a $25,000 grant through CARES Act funding for this project.

But McGrath says the cost of infrastructure, devices and monthly service adds up to millions.

They’re starting in an area of Pottsboro, but the eventual goal is all of Grayson County.

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