HB 5 expands critical broadband services
and bridges digital divide in rural Texas
By Rep. Trent Ashby
House District 57
The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need for reliable access to the internet and exposed the breadth of ways in which connectivity impacts daily life. Texas is one of only six states in the nation without a state plan for broadband development.
In December, Connected Nation Texas estimated that 316,717 households (nearly 900,000 people) in Texas were “unserved” by broadband. About 89% of them live in rural areas. Additionally, the number of rural communities left behind increases as broadband speeds increase. Therefore, we need a broadband plan to establish goals that guide the development and investment of broadband infrastructure for public interest across the state.
Our massive, diverse economy has already propelled Texas as the top state for business over the last 16 years. Bridging the digital divide with expanded access to broadband in rural areas will increase opportunities for high-quality healthcare, educational attainment and economic development opportunities.
My filing of House Bill 5 comes after months of deliberations, and it approaches this issue with a comprehensive strategy for the state to provide an essential tool to the people of Texas. Working with various stakeholders, from internet service providers to non-profit organizations, my office has been identifying the most efficient and effective path forward to expand access to broadband in Texas.
HB 5 takes a holistic approach to expanding access to critical broadband services. The bill can be summed up in four key parts: forming a state broadband office, creating a comprehensive state broadband plan, identifying which areas of the state have the greatest need through a mapping program, and incorporating funding projects to increase access and adoption in those areas.
It’s my hope that passage of this bill will institute the correct role of the government in improving the quality of life for all Texans, especially in rural Texas. HB 5 is about partnerships with community, philanthropy and industry. We aim to make 21st century investments in favor of economic development, education, healthcare and public safety, so we can all benefit from the connectivity that broadband access affords.
Meet State Rep. Trent Ashby
Rep. Trent Ashby, born and raised on a dairy farm and diversified livestock operation, was sworn into the Texas House of Representatives in January 2013. His district is comprised of Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine, and Trinity Counties. He is currently a member of the House Committees on Appropriations and Transportation. … Learn more.