The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many glaring disparities in our society, particularly when it comes to access to the internet. As we navigated the challenges of remote work, online education, and virtual healthcare, it became clear how far our state and country were from ensuring that every family has reliable internet access. In an increasingly digital world, access to the internet is no longer a luxury or convenience; it is a necessity.
Recognizing the urgency of this issue, I am proud to have co-authored legislation that develops and invests in broadband and telecommunications infrastructure in Texas. To fund these investments, and create the Broadband Infrastructure Fund (BIF), voters must pass Proposition 8. This crucial initiative, if approved by voters on the November 2023 ballot, will allocate $1.5 billion in state funds to support broadband and emergency telecommunications infrastructure projects in Texas.
The BIF serves multiple purposes that are essential for bridging the digital divide. The BIF will be used to administer the Broadband Development Program, which aims to expand broadband access to underserved communities across the state. By investing in the necessary infrastructure, we can ensure that no Texan is left behind in the digital age.
Additionally, BIF will provide a state match to federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funds, further leveraging resources to maximize the impact of broadband development initiatives. This past June, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Texas’ allocation totaling $3.3 billion in federal funding for the BEAD Program. This significant investment further strengthens our efforts to bridge the digital divide in Texas and accelerate our progress in expanding broadband access.
BIF will also allocate funds to support 9-1-1 services and upgrades, recognizing the critical role that reliable emergency telecommunications play in safeguarding our communities. By providing a one-time transfer of $155.2 million to the NextGen 9-1-1 Service Fund, we can enhance emergency response capabilities and ensure that Texans have access to life-saving services when they need them most.
Lastly, BIF will allocate $75 million to the Broadband Pole Replacement Program, addressing a crucial infrastructure need. This investment will facilitate the replacement of outdated and inadequate utility poles in order to install new broadband infrastructure. These funds address the cost issue which has been a huge barrier to improving connectivity and reliability for communities across the state.
These funds are in addition to the allocation of $500.5 million in ARPA Funds authorized by the Texas Legislature in 2021 to fund critical upgrades to the state’s broadband infrastructure, furthering our ability to meet internet accessibility needs in schools, business, and homes. These funds have been instrumental in addressing the immediate needs of our communities.
The establishment of the BIF, and the previous investments for broadband, are significant steps towards achieving digital equity in Texas. However, it is crucial that we recognize that this is just the beginning. Closing the digital divide requires a comprehensive and sustained effort from all levels of government, private sector partners, and community organizations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call, highlighting the urgent need for universal broadband access. We have a historic opportunity to bridge the digital divide in Texas and ensure that every Texan has access to the opportunities and resources that the internet provides. Proposition 8 and the establishment of the BIF are critical steps towards achieving this goal.
On the November 2023 ballot, I urge all Texans to vote in favor of Proposition 8 to allocate $1.5 billion to the Broadband Infrastructure Fund. By doing so, we authorize the use of the necessary resources to expand broadband access, support emergency telecommunications, and replace outdated infrastructure. This investment will not only improve connectivity but also empower our communities, enhance education, create economic opportunities, and save lives.
Let us come together and make a strong statement that every Texan deserves equal access to the internet. Vote for Proposition 8 and support the Broadband Infrastructure Fund. Together, we can build a more equitable and connected Texas for generations to come.