The pandemic has been hard for everyone, but especially for those who don’t have dependable access to high-speed internet. One thing that might have helped – a statewide broadband plan. Texas is among just six states that don’t have such a plan, even though over 2 million Texans lack access to high-speed internet, according to the state comptroller’s office.
A group of nearly 90 state lawmakers recently sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott calling for a statewide broadband plan. State Rep. Trent Ashby is a Republican from Lufkin, Texas. He told Texas Standard that many who lack broadband access live in rural areas.
“Coronavirus has really highlighted and laid bare the challenges that many rural Texans face in terms of connectivity,” Ashby said.
Making broadband both widely available and affordable are among the goals of those who signed the letter, Ashby said.
“There was a study done here in the deep East Texas region,” he said. “The people that do have broadband in limited parts of this 12-county region, they’re paying 400% more for their Internet than many of our urban counterparts.”
Ashby said funding to support extending broadband into remote areas exists at the federal level. But because Texas doesn’t have a plan, the state isn’t able to access that money.
“Just by us enacting a plan, we will see our stature improve in terms of the possibility of being awarded grants,” he said.
Ashby says private sector spending would also be part of extending broadband service.