Texas Broadband Expansion Plan to Debut Mid-June
Wednesday, May 18, 2022
An official plan to expand broadband in Texas is due out June 15, after state officials traveled near and far to collect public comments on internet access and affordability.
Tim Morstad, associate state director for AARP Texas, said the pandemic highlighted equal access to high-speed internet is critical and no longer a "nice-to-have" luxury.
"We've got to get access to high-speed internet, and we've got to make sure it's affordable, and we've got to make sure people have the skills to utilize it," Morstad outlined. "I picture it as a three-legged stool to make sure that we can really unlock the potential for older Texans."
Texas lawmakers passed legislation last year to create the Texas Broadband Development Office. Currently, the state has access to $500 million in federal money through COVID-19-related grants with more money promised through the federal infrastructure law House Bill 3684 11/15/2021.
The geographic size of Texas is a challenge for connecting people to reliable internet, especially in rural areas, but Morstad expects Texans will appreciate the benefits when the work is finished.
"For older Texans, it has the ability to unlock things like telehealth," Morstad explained. "It will also allow older Texans to stay connected, whether that's with friends or families or caregivers."
Morstad added half of those who belong to AARP Texas are between the ages of 50 and 64 and still very active in the workplace. It means if they are looking for a job, they need affordable, high-speed internet to find out what's out there and how to apply.
"And some of them, you can work from home, but only if you're connected," Morstad pointed out. "So we really want to see high-speed internet pushed out there further across our state, so these opportunities are available to older Texans."
Later this year, the Texas broadband office expects to issue a map of the state, property by property, to show where expansion is needed.
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