State lawmakers have filed bills to help bring high-speed internet to rural Texas.
Senator Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) and Reps. Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco) and Four Price (R-Amarillo) have sponsored bills that seek to improve broadband access in areas of Texas that are currently underserved. Broadband refers to high-speed internet access that is always on and is faster than a dial-up connection. It includes technologies like Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable modem.
While broadband access is a problem in many places, the sparseness of rural communities often creates an extra barrier for consumer access. In many parts of rural Texas, residents often pay higher prices for lower quality service, if they can get broadband at all.
AARP Texas, a nonprofit and nonpartisan advocacy association for older persons, and Glasshouse Policy, a Texas-based nonprofit, support the measures, which were filed this week. The bills are: Senate Bills 1103 and 1104 by Senator Perry, House Bills 2422 and 2423 by Representative Anderson, and House Bill 1960 by Representative Price.
“These broadband-access proposals offer a solution to a real problem facing many rural Texans,” said AARP Texas Director Bob Jackson. “Access to broadband can help older Americans live independently in their homes and communities. It also combats social isolation and improves well-being by supporting services like distance learning and telehealth.”
SB 1103 and HB 2423 create a broadband office within the Public Utility Commission of Texas that would provide grants to public or private entities for projects that stimulate the installation and maintenance of broadband in rural areas. The bills also authorize the PUC to set statewide goals for broadband deployment, coordinate various local and state governmental efforts, act as an information clearinghouse on the issues, and be empowered to seek federal funding.
SB 1104 and HB 2422 would encourage deployment of broadband conduit, such as fiber-optic cables, on state-owned land and in state buildings. Meanwhile, HB 1960 creates a 15-member Broadband Council to advise the Legislature on steps needed to improve access in rural areas.
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