Originally published: July 20, 2010
Last updated: March 7, 2011 - 3:58pm
At an unveiling last month, the Texas Department of Agriculture touted its map of broadband Internet availability as the first step in closing a "digital divide" that denies rural Texans critical services. But a political divide has opened instead, as critics question the tool's accuracy and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples' relationship with the organization that created it.
Staples' Democratic rival, Hank Gilbert, and a handful of local providers, consumer groups and mapping organizations say the agency tailored the application to fit Connected Nation, the nonprofit selected by the department and the Texas Public Utility Commission to create the map. The Agriculture Department and the company defend the process, while their critics contend that the map will direct federal stimulus money toward major telecommunications companies at the expense of smaller Internet providers.
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