Rural Broadband Access Getting Closer to Reality in Texas
House Bill 5 has been introduced to expand broadband access to communities that have limited or no broadband access.
According to NewsWest 9, the broadband bill will partner the state with local and regional institutions to map out who has and who is without internet.
"Digital learning is probably here to stay, distance learning is here to stay, tele-health is here to stay, but we have to bridge that digital divide and it's not just rural Texas, it's also areas of urban Texas that have a divide," said Dade Phelan, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.
Areas of urban Texas that have a divide includes Midland and Odessa believe it or not.
The state plans to pay for the $2 billion cost through the CARES Act funds and State Utilities Reliability Fund.
"We are calling upon the state to work with the experts in this arena, the stakeholders, the citizenry of Texas to come up with a plan that works for Texas," said Texas State Representative Trent Ashby.
This would get Texas up to speed with other states who have gotten their broadband services out to rural areas that were without internet service.
"Increasing access to broadband we knew was important, but the pandemic turned it into something that was extremely urgent," Gov. Abbott said. "Look at what has happened to schools. Schools would not have be capable of providing education to students without broadband access and because of lack of broadband access to some homes."
The bill has bipartisan support and is scheduled to hit the house floor right after Easter and be on the ballot for Texas voters by November 2022.