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Texas House passes broadband expansion bill

Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 10:21 PM CDT
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(KXII) - Texas is getting closer to expanding statewide broadband internet access.

The Texas House passed HB-5 unanimously Friday, the $2 billion bill will now go to the Senate and be assigned to a committee for hearings before coming before a joint conference.

If the bill passes lawmakers will have a year to come up with a broadband plan outlining where the state needs internet, what speeds are going to be provided and where they’ll get the money.

“It sets the stage for the entire state broadband from the urban down to the very rural and solve it no matter where you are in the state of Texas,” said J.J. McGrath, owner and operator of TekWav, a fixed wireless internet provider in Sherman.

TekWav serves over 1,700 subscribers in Sherman, Denison and Pottsboro.

“We support anything for broadband and any help we can give for our rural communities,” McGrath said. “We like the way the structure of the broadband office is created.”

The office created out of HB-5 will be tasked with creating the broadband plan through the office which is needed to receive federal money.

“It’s going to be a combination of multiple technologies because there’s not going to be one solution that fits them all,” McGrath said. “Urban areas will rely more on co-ax cable and more fiber connections, in the more rural areas where it’s more cost prohibitive to deploying fiber and coax cable, then you switch to fixed wireless, and in more rural areas maybe even satellite.”

The national average internet speed is 25 megabits download and three megabits upload, the minimum baseline standard to be considered broadband.

Kevin Couch is the director of communications for “Connect to Educate” which is a digital advertising company in Sherman who’s internet is powered by TekWave and has minimum 20 megabit downloand and upload speeds.

“That’s amazing, that’s a very serious internet connection,” Couch said.

Couch has been down at the Capitol educating policy makers as they work to “begin to set up broadband internet across the state so they can reach those rural communities that don’t have access because of a lack of infrastructure.”

“Access to that kind of technology has been greatly lacking in Texas, so what we’re advocating for in Texas is lets use our federal standards for these infrastructure take downs that will allow us to disperse this type of signal to rural areas,” Couch said.

Reggie Smith represents Texas House District 62 and co-authored the bill.

“I think overtime as this broadband development office gets established and does its job that we will eventually get broadband to those in rural areas that need it,” Smith said. “We have a significant number of folks who can use it, who are without and we can provide it.”

There are an estimated 1 million Texans who don’t have broadband access. The broadband development program would also develop an account to incentivize providers to get internet service to people without it now.

If the bill becomes law, Smith said a version of a broadband development map and an overall plan to get coverage across the state would be available by 2022.

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