The Governor’s Broadband Development Council submitted its first report to the Texas Legislature on Sunday, recommending the creation of a state broadband plan and a state broadband office. The council indicated a state broadband funding program could benefit Texas and recommends its continued study, and alluded to other potential solutions under consideration including digital literacy training and broadband ready community designations.
The council’s recommendations are an important first step for Texas by setting a baseline for discussion as lawmakers work to develop comprehensive solutions. With the heightened importance of broadband connectivity as the pandemic disrupts every aspect of Texans’ lives in 2020, the Legislature should be prepared to do more in 2021 than simply plan for future action. An accompanying plan and office with other meaningful market reforms in 2021 would ensure that many Texans don’t have to wait until 2023 or beyond for necessary changes.
The modern-day economy, delivery of essential services, and the state’s future economic prosperity depend on the digital infrastructure in our state. For far too many Texans, this 21st-Century infrastructure is inaccessible. Nearly 1 million Texans, 89 percent residing in rural communities, do not have adequate infrastructure to support broadband services, and almost 8 million Texans who have broadband infrastructure do not subscribe to services due to economic or digital literacy barriers.
In order to address the digital connectivity crisis in our state, focus and attention are needed on correcting the market and economic barriers of broadband deployment and improving the digital skilling for all Texans. Texas 2036 is committed to fostering a robust dialogue with all stakeholders and supporting state lawmakers to determine the best path forward to close the digital divide once and forever.