AUSTIN, TEXAS — Today, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 5 by Senator Robert Nichols and co-authored by Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa relating to the expansion of broadband services. According to the Governor’s Broadband Development Council 2020 Texas Report, only 67.6 percent of Texas households subscribe to fixed broadband service such as DSL, cable, or fiber at home. What’s more, Texas is one of six states that does not have a state broadband plan.
SB 5 as passed by the Senate would create the State Broadband Development Office (SBDO) and establishes a board of twelve advisors to oversee and provide guidance to the SBDO. The legislation requires one of the appointees to be a resident of South Texas. Further, the SBDO would serve as a resource for information regarding broadband service in the state, and engage in outreach to communities regarding the expansion, adoption, and affordability of broadband services. Additionally, the SBDO will serve as an information clearinghouse regarding federal programs that provide assistance to local entities with respect to broadband service. The SBDO will also prepare a state broadband plan that establishes long-term goals for greater access to, affordability, and adoption of broadband service.
Senator Hinojosa released the following statement on the passage of SB 5:
“Passing broadband expansion legislation is one of my priorities this session. Having access to the internet is no longer a luxury or convenience, it is a necessity. Not having access to broadband at home, prevents many from being able to telework, have access to virtual schooling, or be able to take advantage of telemedicine appointments. This bill gets us closer to ensuring all Texans have access to broadband and I appreciate that affordability is one of the goals of the State Broadband Plan. With millions of federal dollars allocated for broadband, it is important that all levels of government are working together to maximize the use of these funds as we work to connect all our communities to broadband services.”
Senate Bill 5 will now be considered by the Texas House of Representatives who also has a broadband proposal, House Bill 5. The differences between the two proposals will likely be consolidated in a conference committee before a final bill on this issue is sent to the governor’s desk.