It’s not often that all 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives see eye-to-eye on an issue. But that’s what happened this week when members voted unanimously in favor of HB 5, Rep. Trent Ashby’s bill to expand broadband access throughout the state.
That broadband is no longer a luxury is pretty well understood at this point. Any lingering doubts were certainly put to rest over the past year as life and business were disrupted by a global pandemic. It was broadband that softened the blow, allowing families to stay in touch, students to continue their education, people to see a doctor, workers to keep their jobs, and businesses to find ways to stay open.
As more people get vaccinated and infection rates steadily decline, everyone is looking forward to a return to normal. But broadband will be a permanent feature of the new normal, as innovations have demonstrated the gains in efficiency and productivity that broadband can deliver. What remains is to ensure that all Texans are able to capitalize on these innovations.
Expanding broadband access statewide is no easy feat. It involves complex planning and logistics and public-private collaboration. But first, it requires consensus among Texas’ elected officials. And that’s what was accomplished with a 150-0 vote in the Texas House.
At a time when global headlines warn of democracy in retreat, our elected officials showed that democracy is still getting the job done in Texas. With 46 Democratic and 56 Republican co-sponsors, HB 5 is proof of what we can achieve when we come together to make policy decisions through accessible data, long-term planning and statewide engagement.
A.J. Rodriguez, a long-time business and civic leader and former Texas Association of Business Chair, is Texas 2036’s Executive Vice President. Luis Acuña is Texas 2036’s Policy Analyst focused on broadband.