Texans vote to bridge the digital divide

Over 1.7 million Texans voted to approve the creation of the Broadband Infrastructure Fund on Tuesday. The constitutional amendment creating the fund, one of 14 ballot propositions up for voter approval this week, received the support of 69.4% of voters casting ballots. 

This amounts to a big win for Texans who recognize the vital role high-speed internet now plays in delivering health care, education and workforce opportunities to communities across the state. 

Thanks to the passage of House Bill 9 in the 88th Legislature and overwhelming voter support for its accompanying constitutional amendment, Texas will now have a strong financial position from which to work toward its goal to close the state’s digital divide. 

And with nearly seven million Texans still lacking access to reliable, high-speed internet, state dollars for broadband are sorely needed. 

With the passage of Proposition 8, the state will now be able to fund a State Match program it  envisioned as part of the federal Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. 

Texas received $3.3 billion from the federal government to help close the digital divide, but in order to leverage those dollars, eligible entities such as the state or its subgrantees are required to match federal dollars on a 1:4 basis. The state now has the funds to provide that match, particularly in the most high-cost, rural areas of the state where internet service providers struggle to make a good business case for building out broadband networks. 

The passage of Proposition 8 also means Texas will be able to provide needed dollars for the state’s Broadband Pole Replacement program created by House Bill 1505 as well as invest in critical upgrades to public safety and emergency response across Texas through the expansion and implementation of Next Generation 911 services. NextGen 911 is a nationwide project to move analog (phone line-based) 911 systems to a digital-based system to improve emergency response.