The need for broadband access: Strategic Framework

This is part of our blog series for Texas 2036’s Strategic Framework, which provides in-depth, cross-cutting data to inform key decisions about the most significant issues facing the state.

Digital connectivity often can be the difference between access to economic opportunities and essential services or the lack thereof. Our Strategic Framework Goal No. 14 not only strives to ensure that all Texans are online, but it also tracks the progress the state has made to expand high-speed internet across Texas. 

Closing the digital divide

The number of Texas households with a high-speed internet subscription — a leading indicator of digital connectivity — has grown steadily over the years. However, it currently rests at 85%, according to the most recent Census estimates. This means there is still work to be done to ensure the remaining 1.4 million households that lack a broadband subscription can fully participate in the 21st century digital economy.

Source: Texas 2036 Strategic Framework

The pandemic also highlighted the need for high-speed, reliable internet service that allows for a variety of uses, including telework, remote learning and telehealth. The map below shows pockets of the state that still lack access to broadband internet upload speeds at 100 megabits per second. This internet speed is considered to be fast enough to accommodate these uses while allowing for multiple people in a household to simultaneously connect to the internet. 

Source: Connected Nation

Another focus of Goal No. 14 in our Strategic Framework is Broadband Affordability. Data shows that affordability remains a factor in closing Texas’ digital divide.  

Source: Texas 2036 Strategic Framework

There are currently about 1.1 million Texas households enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program. This federal program provides a $30 discount to eligible households to help make internet service affordable to low-income families. The discount is $75 to families living on tribal lands. Raising awareness about this program could help close the state’s digital divide. 

Progress towards the goal of digital connectivity remains promising. 

This is thanks to an anticipated influx of federal funding for broadband internet expansion from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Digital Equity Act and the 88th Texas Legislative Session approaching with broadband on the agenda.