Texas’ First-Ever Broadband Plan Lays the Foundation for Work Ahead
The Texas Broadband Development Office, or BDO, released the state’s first-ever Broadband Plan on June 15. The 2022 plan identifies guiding principles for Texas’ approach to closing the digital divide, synthesizes data and observations from the office’s statewide listening tour, and provides areas of focus for its future work. Also, the plan identifies the following tasks to be completed by the BDO for closing the digital divide:
- Connecting over 1 million households to high-speed broadband;
- Improving connectivity for over 5.6 million households;
- Improving affordability of broadband for 3.6 million households; and
- Assisting 3.8 million Texans with digital literacy challenges.
The 2022 plan is the first iteration of what will likely be multiple broadband plans to come from the BDO leading into 2023. In August, work will begin to update this plan to meet additional federal guidelines.
With the heightened importance of broadband connectivity and a historic investment of public funding flowing to Texas, the 2022 plan solidifies technology neutrality—not favoring one technology solution over another—and embraces all avenues for achieving quality broadband accessibility as a key principle.
Technology neutrality was also a key principle pushed by the 87th Texas Legislature and embedded in House Bill 5 (87R), which established the Texas Broadband Development Office. With the federal funds prioritizing certain technology over others, Texas should strongly consider optimizing state funding to invest in technologies that have strong use cases in low-density areas but are not prioritized under federal guidance. In the end, the most efficient pathway to connecting all Texans will involve tailoring technological solutions to meet the diverse needs of our massive state.
The modern-day economy, delivery of essential services, and the state’s future economic prosperity depend on the digital infrastructure in our state. As identified in the plan, this 21st-century infrastructure is inaccessible for far too many Texans. Nearly one-quarter of the state’s population—seven million Texans—are still without adequate broadband access due to a lack of infrastructure, unaffordable subscription costs, or digital literacy barriers.
In order to capitalize on this pivotal moment of public investments in broadband and digital connectivity, focus and attention are needed on solutions that can address Texas’ unique needs. 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.