Texas Border Business
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Broadband — an Internet connection with sufficient speed to deliver online experiences including full-motion video without significant lag time — is increasingly seen as a requirement for modern life. Yet census data indicate that nearly 20 percent of Texas households don’t have it — and until they do, they’ll continue to be shut out of the modern economy.
As a result, during the regular session in 2021 of the Texas Legislature, state lawmakers approved – and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law – House Bill 5, legislation which was directly shaped by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County.
Legislation is a proposed or enacted law or group of laws.
House Bill 5 – which was supported by the entire Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation – is a groundbreaking plan to provide affordable, high-speed broadband to “almost 2.8 million Texas households, including seven million people, lack broadband access,” according to Fiscal Notes.
Fiscal Notes, a publication of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, features articles and analyses devoted to a wide variety of topics of Texas interest and general government concern.
“Twenty-three percent of Texans have limited ability to attend virtual classes, see a health care provider from their living room, fill out a job application online, start a business or access online marketplaces from their kitchen table. This problem disproportionately affects rural communities, communities of color and low-income families.”
Recently, another renowned Texas leader from the Rio Grande Valley – Alonzo Cantú of McAllen – will help guide House Bill 5 into reality by providing his expertise to guide the Texas Broadband Development Office as a member of its Board of Advisors.
The Texas Broadband Development Office was created by the 87th Legislature in 2021 and is situated within the Office of the Comptroller. The Board of Advisors provides guidance to the Broadband Development Office regarding the expansion, adoption, affordability and use of broadband service and programs administered by the office.
The Texas Broadband Development Office was established shortly afterward to award grants, low-interest loans and other financial incentives to expand access to broadband service across the state. The Legislature appropriated $5 million to the Comptroller to administer the program.
Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act enacted by the federal government has allocated $500.5 million to Texas for broadband expansion, while the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will allocate at least $100 million, according to the Office of the Texas Comptroller.
The State Broadband Development Office will provide oversight of the $500.5 million that was appropriated during the Third Called Special Session to the Texas Legislature in 2021.
The State Broadband Development Office will also prepare a state broadband plan that establishes long-term goals for greater access to, affordability, and adoption of broadband service. This plan will help Texas draw down additional funding from the $42.5 billion that was appropriated in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act means historic investment that will modernize our roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, airports, broadband, and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. This legislation does not raise taxes on everyday Americans, and it will create good-paying union jobs.