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Texas District Partners with SpaceX to Bring Satellite Internet to Underserved Communities

Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) serves about 33,500 students in Western Texas, with approximately 80% of students identifying as Hispanic or Latino. When the pandemic interrupted in-person schooling in 2020, surveys indicated that 39% of ECISD students either did not have home internet access or had marginal internet access that was inadequate for schoolwork. Looking to find a long-term solution for families in communities where reliable high-speed broadband was unavailable, Ector County ISD became the first school district to partner with SpaceX, the Starlink satellite internet service provider, for broadband. 

The district targeted homes in the Pleasant Farms area, a rural community with no high-speed internet options for the initial rollout. Philanthropic partners supporting the initiative included Chiefs for Change, Permian Strategic Partnership (a regional coalition of oil and gas industry leaders), and the Odessa Development Corporation. Challenges included assisting residents with equipment setup and helping some families understand the need for and benefits of home broadband. District personnel made home visits and phone calls to gather feedback about the project. 

The work resulted in over 1,000 families being connected to reliable, affordable internet service. The Ector County partnerships demonstrate how school and government agencies can collaborate to document local broadband needs and identify funding opportunities.