Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference to discuss the importance of reliable broadband.
In today’s digital age, the internet has become a necessity in every household. In the pandemic, the importance of the internet has increased ten-fold. It is needed for everything- from bank transactions to shopping, from doing office work to schooling. Reliable broadband services are not a luxury anymore.
On Monday Texas Governor Greg Abott held a press conference at Hamshire-Fannett Elementary School, Beaumont to discuss the importance of statewide and reliable access to broadband and legislation around it. He was joined by State Representative Trent Ashby and Texas Speaker Dade Phelan and a few others to discuss the essentiality of reliable broadband for all sectors of life. He mentions the need for reliable broadband for all students to connect with the school or college to continue their education, businesses need it to provide their services and facilities remotely and even doctors need it for telemedicine.
Earlier this year, access to broadband was declared as an emergency item by the governor for the 87th legislative session. Trent Ashby is the author of HB5, a bill in the house that would create a broadband office for the state and a comprehensive broadband plan for Texans if the bill is passed. The aim of this legislation is to increase broadband access in Texas.
Texas is one of the six states that doesn’t have a broadband plan. According to an analysis in 2019, out of the five least connected cities, four are in Texas. Over 9 million people do not have a broadband connection in Texas. The reason is varied- either they are not subscribed to any service or the infrastructure doesn’t reach their homes.
The primary reason for this divide has been appointed as the lack of infrastructure that can connect rural areas with an internet connection. However, in the six biggest Texan counties over 590,000 households remain without internet.
There are three main components for this divide- building suitable infrastructure to support high-speed internet in rural areas, the ability of citizens to pay for the service, and their ability to successfully use it once they do get it. According to a policy analyst, Texas is affected by all three which brings the number down.
The state lawmakers are ready to tackle this issue by designating access to broadband as one of the priority items. The Governor has clearly stated the importance of closing the huge digital divide by expanding broadband access throughout Texas. He has stated that he is looking forward to working with the state legislature to provide internet to all Texans.