The 22,000 people who live in Llano County, Texas, are only an hour away from the high-tech city, but many of them are decades behind when it comes to being connected.
“Rural areas have been, let’s say, neglected,” said Llano County Commissioner Peter Jones. “There’s a major issue. There aren’t enough services in many parts of our land.
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More than one in ten people in Llano County don’t have access to high-speed internet, which keeps them from modern pleasures like working, learning, and getting health care from home. In West Texas, many people have it much worse. The Texas Comptroller’s office says that at least 20 counties have no access to high-speed, reliable internet.
According to the most current data from the U.S. Concho Valley, they are just some of the almost seven million Texans who don’t have internet access at home. Commissioner Jones saw this “digital divide” hit his town hard during the COVID-19 pandemic when young students would crowd around hotspots in parking lots to do their homework.
He said that 25% of the kids who were sent home from school did not have internet. “So, to fix this problem, the school system put hotspots on school buses and parked them in parking lots. So kids can take their computers there and actually do their homework”. “Well, that won’t work in the long run.”
The Texas House of Representatives took a step toward finding an answer on Wednesday. Trent Ashby, a Republican from Lufkin, wrote House Bill 9. It forms the Broadband Infrastructure Fund, an account in the state treasury that will pay for the Texas Universal Service Fund, fix telecommunications poles, make it easier to call 911 and improve connectivity in public schools. You might read Proposed Measure Would Bar Gender Identity Textbooks From Texas Education Board.
Rep. Ashby told the House on Wednesday, “I stand before you today to ask that we redouble our efforts to close the digital divide in Texas through a bold and ambitious investment in broadband and telecommunications infrastructure.” “There has never been a time when broadband was more important than it is now. And it will be more important tomorrow than it was yesterday.”
The bill tells the comptroller to move $1 billion into the state’s broadband growth account and $75 million into the state’s broadband pole replacement fund. Ashby said, “I want to stress that this bill will have a real effect on all of your districts, whether they are in cities, suburbs, or the country.” But counties like Llano will feel this effect more than most as they look to the state to help them connect when they can’t do it on their own. You also like Tornado Watches Are Out For Parts Of North Texas.
“The county doesn’t have enough money to do it on its own,” said Commissioner Jones. “But we hope to make progress on this over the next few years with the help of the Broadband Development Office, the funding, and the grants.”
House Bill 9 passed the lower house at first by a vote of 139 to 7.