Using the internet is a routine part of life across most of the U.S., but not in the 79905 ZIP code of El Paso, Texas. This section of the city faces a technology gap, or digital divide, which refers to limited broadband internet access because of a lack of availability or financial challenges. This divide is beginning to close, however, in part because of a $100,000 grant from Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) that will help advance a project to bring wireless, high-bandwidth connectivity to the ZIP code’s schools and households for the first time.
MPC’s contribution supports a regional initiative to provide the infrastructure, software, installation, training and community awareness needed to establish the digital network. Among many other benefits, residents will gain expanded access to social and financial services as well as opportunities to participate in telehealth through online visits with health care providers.
This effort adds to MPC’s ongoing educational investment in the ZIP code, which is where the company’s El Paso refinery is located. The refinery previously adopted 10 nearby schools that serve students from kindergarten through high school.
“Marathon Petroleum understands the impact internet access has on the success of our local students,” said Senior MPC Stakeholder Engagement Representative V.J. Smith. “Removing this roadblock helps enable every child to keep up in the classroom by opening up a world of learning regardless of a family’s socioeconomic situation.”
MPC’s grant and the overall project are being administered by a non-profit affiliate of the El Paso Community Foundation. Project partners include city and county government, local higher education institutions and other private-sector representatives.
“Providing equitable, reliable access to the internet is as important as any utility. Robust internet really means access to education, primary healthcare, better job opportunities, financial systems and all of society," said Eric Pearson, President and CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation. "This is some of the most important work the El Paso Community Foundation can do right now, and we are grateful for Marathon Petroleum’s partnership and support."