Abbott: Broadband is ‘Extremely Urgent’
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) held a press conference Monday in which he discussed the need for legislation securing reliable statewide access to broadband internet services for education, business, and health care.
Months after designating expanding broadband access as one of five emergency items for this legislative session, Abbott disclosed details on House Bill 5 on Friday. The legislation would establish a state broadband development office and require that office to develop a state broadband plan by September 2022. It would also release funds for the broadband expansion projects. The state is looking to partner with local and regional entities to broaden broadband access. Costs are anticipated to reach up to $4 million in five years. The legislation will be funded by the federal CARES Act and the State Utilities Reliability Fund.
“Increasing access to broadband we knew was important, but the pandemic turned it into something that was extremely urgent,” Abbott said. “Look at what has happened to schools. Schools would not have been capable of providing education to students without broadband access and because of lack of broadband access to some homes.”
“Digital learning is probably here to stay, distance learning is here to stay, tele-health is here to stay, but we have to bridge that digital divide and it’s not just rural Texas, it’s also areas of urban Texas that have a divide,” Phelan stated.
“Broadband access is no longer a luxury, it is an essential tool for all Texans,” the governor tweeted later. “Schools need broadband to connect with students, businesses need it to remain competitive, and our doctors and nurses and their patients need it for telemedicine purposes.”