Texas is receiving over $3.3 billion in federal funding — more than any other state — to expand broadband internet access the state.
Much of that money undoubtedly will be pumped into the Houston metro area, where a little over 180,000 (about 7 percent) of the more than 2.6 million households have no internet access.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced June 26 that the 50 states plus the District of Columbia and U.S. territories will share nearly $42.5 billion in broadband internet funding allocated under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The law went on the books in 2021.
“This is a watershed moment for millions of people across America who lack access to a high-speed Internet connection. Access to Internet service is necessary for work, education, healthcare, and more,” Alan Davidson, assistant secretary of commerce for communication and information, says in a news release.
Previously, the federal government had announced more than $20 billion in separate broadband funding.
The fresh $3.3 billion for Texas will complement the $1.5 billion in state money that Texas lawmakers recently earmarked to improve broadband access. This November, Texans will vote on a constitutional amendment that would set up a state-run fund for the $1.5 billion.
All of the money will be geared toward bringing Texas’ internet infrastructure up to date. State data shows 7 million Texans in 2.8 million households lack broadband internet access.
The Federal Communications Commission says broadband internet access delivers a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps. Those are considered adequate speeds for a family of three or a business with five to 10 employees.
“Although that’s enough speed for basic internet use, it’s actually a bit slow by today’s standards, since many internet service providers offer 100Mbps speeds as basic-level plans,” HighSpeedInternet.com points out.
The Texas Broadband Development Office, which oversees the state’s broadband internet program, says high-speed internet access “is increasingly seen as a requirement for modern life.” State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, whose agency oversees the office, has said it will take $10 billion to deliver full broadband internet access in Texas.
The Broadband Development Office will oversee distribution of the broadband funding in Texas. It plans to start accepting grant applications in 2024.
Hegar says Texas received more broadband funding than any other state “because the challenge facing our state is unique.”
“Texas has a large population with a significant share of unserved areas spread over a vast and geographically diverse landscape. The bipartisan legislation that appropriated these funds recognized the importance of giving states the flexibility to meet the needs of their unique populations,” Hegar says in a news release.
U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, a Houston Democrat, has proposed legislation (the Broadband Incentives for Communities Act) that would help state and local governments take advantage of the infusion of broadband cash. She says these governments need money — in the form of federal grants — to hire and train employees, install software, and make other improvements so they can handle an expected flood of requests for broadband funding.
“Many of the communities that need broadband access the most have the fewest resources to implement these projects. We must ensure that they are not left behind while we make this monumental investment in the country’s broadband infrastructure,” Fletcher wrote in a June 14 letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The White House aims to connect every American to affordable high-speed internet service by 2030. Today, an estimated 24 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet. Millions more deal with limited or unreliable service.
“High-speed Internet isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s become an absolute necessity,” President Joe Biden said at a White House event announcing the $42.5 billion in federal broadband funding.
“I’ve gotten letters and emails from across the country from people who are thrilled that after so many years of waiting, they’re finally going to get high-speed Internet,” Biden added.
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