BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — On Monday, the city of Brownsville was awarded a national award for digital equity and accessibility.

The International Data Corporation gave 14 awards nationwide and granted the national Digital Equity and Accessibility award to Brownsville.

“To close the digital divide or the lack of high-speed internet connectivity or broadband connectivity in our community,” said Brownsville City Manager Noel Bernal about the award.

Bernal said the award highlights the need for internet connection and the social inequities in the community

“What the recognition is, we need to highlight amongst other communities the way to overcome these challenges,” said Bernal. “This is a structural and systemic issue happening throughout our society.”

Currently, 52% of Brownsville residents are connected to broadband internet.

The pandemic emphasized the need for the internet because more than half of the community could not work from home, according to Bernal.

“There was a smart asset study performed in April 2020 which was right in the midst of the pandemic and it revealed right in the Brownsville area, Harlingen area that 78% of people could not work from home,” said Bernal.

Bernal explained that without more internet connection, health care accessibility, education, and business growth are stifled.

“It’s really difficult to recruit the types of industries of the future and the jobs of the future and won’t be able to locate and thrive in Brownsville if we have such a lack of broadband connectivity,” said Bernal.

The city of Brownsville is working to install about 100 miles of fiber connectivity that will bring high-speed internet to businesses, schools, and homes.

“So, it will be under construction for the next two years. It’ll be a $20 million investment using primarily American Rescue Plan Act dollars or stimulus funding. It’ll provide for just under 100 miles of fiber and be the backbone that’ll be implemented throughout the city,” said Bernal.

The city will meet next week to choose a vendor to begin the installation of the project.