Connected Nation Texas recently asked Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Dist. 57) and other lawmakers to share their thoughts on why expanding high-speed internet to more Texas homes, businesses, and communities is important and explain what action is taking place at the state level to improve connectivity.
Rep. Ashby shared the following in response to our questions:
Why do you believe it’s critical to connect more people to high-speed internet (broadband)?
Never in our state’s history has the importance of broadband internet service been more apparent than throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Equally as apparent – the disparity in access to broadband for rural Texans. As our society becomes increasingly reliant on high-speed internet access, rural communities lacking access to broadband will fall further behind in areas that are critical to a community’s survival – education, business, and healthcare.
What are you hearing from your constituents about the importance of being better connected?
Like so many others, my constituents are doing their best to adapt to the challenges we collectively face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve heard from concerned teachers, parents, and school administrators who express uncertainty about connectivity as we begin to send our students back to school with a greater emphasis on virtual learning. I’ve heard from business owners who are struggling to stay afloat because they lack the virtual bandwidth necessary to transition from in-person sales to an online marketplace. While these are just a couple examples, the inherent challenges facing a poorly connected rural Texas affect every person living in the community.
What actions are you or have you taken to try to connect more families and businesses in your district?
We made some progress last session by passing Senate Bill 14, which allows electric co-ops to use existing easements to deploy fiber-optic cable for the purpose of bolstering internet access to their members and other rural communities. Not only does this legislation create a friendlier regulatory environment for providers, but also sparks a larger conversation about the critical need for broadband access in rural areas. I was proud to joint-author this bill and will continue to advocate for similar legislative solutions that seek to bridge the digital divide that hinders too many Texans.
What do you hope for all Texans when it comes to having access to high-speed internet?
It is my sincere hope that all Texans will have equal access to high-speed internet, regardless of their ZIP code. In a state that promotes and encourages competition as a catalyst for future prosperity, Texas should also prioritize equity when it comes to affordable and reliable high-speed internet so that rural communities have a level playing field on which to compete and prosper.
About Rep. Trent Ashby and his district
Representative Trent Ashby was sworn into the Texas House of Representatives in January 2013. His district is comprised of Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine, and Trinity Counties. Trent has served on the House Administration, Appropriations (as Chairman of the Subcommittee that oversees higher and public education funding), Calendars, Defense & Veterans’ Affairs, Public Education, and Natural Resources Committees during his time in Austin.
He was recognized by his colleagues in the Republican Caucus as the Freshman of the Year at the completion of his first session, and was selected after his second session as the Most Valuable Sophomore in the Texas House by Capitol Inside.
Born and raised on a dairy farm and diversified livestock operation in Rusk County, Ashby is proud of his rural background and upbringing. He is a graduate of Henderson High School and was named one of their distinguished alumnus in 2014. Trent is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics. While at A&M, he was elected to the Student Senate, Class Treasurer, and Senior Yell Leader. He continues to be involved with his alma mater through the Texas A&M Letterman’s Association and Association of Former Students.
Today, Trent is Senior Vice President for VeraBank. He and his wife, Nickie, live in Lufkin with their two sons – Garin and Grant. Prior to being elected to the Legislature, Ashby served as President of the Lufkin ISD Board of Trustees. Both he and Nickie are very active in their boys’ schools, their community, as well as their church, Harmony Hill Baptist Church.
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