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Investing in Our Future: The Case for Broadband

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RodriquezColumnistBy A.J. Rodriguez
Guest columnist

Texas boasts a thriving economy, now ranking as the ninth largest in the world. However, to ensure that all Texans benefit from this growth, we must provide modern-day infrastructure in the form of broadband internet, much like the farm-to-market roads of the past.

Nearly three million Texas households lack broadband access, and five million more face unreliable connections. This problem affects Texans across the state, as shown on the state’s new broadband access map.

With broadband internet increasingly a basic requirement to participate fully in the 21st century economy, those numbers are simply unacceptable.

To remedy this situation, the Texas Legislature has been working on a bold bipartisan broadband infrastructure bill, allowing Texas voters to approve using the state’s historic revenue balance to bridge the digital divide through a constitutional amendment this fall.

That’s why the Texas Legislature is considering House Bill 9 and House Joint Resolution 125 to establish the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund. This would leverage a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tap tens of billions of dollars in surplus revenue to spend on priorities such as property tax relief and transformational infrastructure investments like this one.

The five co-authors, state Reps. Trent Ashby, Todd Hunter, Ana Hernandez, Greg Bonnen and Oscar Longoria, have been joined by 112 co-authors in the House, making it a shining example of Texas legislators working together to shape our future.

The State Comptroller’s office would use those state funds to leverage new federal dollars to maximize support for the Texas Broadband Development Office’s efforts to expand internet availability throughout the state.

Providing this essential resource is crucial to the state’s future success. That’s why Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has stressed the need to invest in broadband connectivity, emphasizing its importance in advancing education, training, employment opportunities and delivering essential services.

We cannot miss out on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to bridge the digital divide and ensure that every Texan has access to the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Thanks to the bipartisan leadership happening now, Texas is about to take the critical next step in ensuring that this essential resource is brought to Texans living in every corner of our state.

A.J. Rodriguez is the executive vice president of Texas 2036, a nonpartisan and nonprofit public policy organization.

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