As the legislature considers how to expand broadband access to all Texans, much of the discussion has focused on the immediate impacts of broadband connectivity. What were once considered luxuries – telemedicine, remote learning, and working from home – have become necessities for many. A lack of adequate digital connectivity puts one at a distinct disadvantage in contemporary society. But expanding broadband access doesn’t just provide individuals with new opportunities, it also results in shared economic benefits for the entire state.
A 2019 USDA report estimates that expanded broadband connectivity could add as much as $65 billion for the U.S. economy. Another report that same year produced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amazon found that expanding rural broadband could add 23,000 new jobs and add more than $3.8 billion from rural small businesses to the Texas economy. Some of that will come from connecting rural Texans with new markets and new opportunities, but Texas will also benefit from giving existing businesses the tools to succeed in the 21st century. Carl Ray Polk, Jr., Vice President of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, explains it this way:
“The business of producing cattle is shifting online, too. We are increasingly monitoring markets from our computers, using online auctions to buy and sell cattle, managing our data in the cloud and obtaining essential goods and services from the online marketplace.”
And the start-up costs would largely be offset by reclaiming tax dollars currently being sent to Washington. Adopting a statewide broadband plan and office – the first steps towards effective broadband expansion – would give Texas greater access to hundreds of millions of additional dollars available from federal programs like the USDA’s ReConnect program to help fund rural broadband infrastructure.
Gov. Abbott recently noted that “We are poised for powerful economic growth.” With statewide broadband expansion, that growth has the potential to boost the state’s economy by billions. That’s a Texas-sized deal that’s just too good to pass up.