Texas lawmakers fight to bring broadband to rural areas

The following press release was issued by the office of Rep. Roger Williams on March 23, 2021. Media should contact Halee Dobbins at Halee.Dobbins@mail.house.gov.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Roger Williams (TX-25) today introduced the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act to help bring critical access to broadband to rural and low-income communities. The bill would create a $10 billion State Broadband Program where governors receive funds based on the number of unserved individuals in their state and then partner with broadband service providers to build out networks.

“Access to reliable internet remains one of the biggest challenges in today’s digital economy, and I am proud to introduce this bill to prevent Texans from being left on the wrong side of the digital divide,” said Congressman Williams. “During COVID-19 Americans were forced to adapt to new virtual ways of living, conducting schoolwork, medical appointments, and business over the internet rather than in person. For far too many of my constituents, unreliable internet exacerbated the challenges of the pandemic and highlighted the gaping digital divide. 

Prior to the pandemic, more than two million Texas residents didn’t have access to reliable internet and a staggering 18 million Americans nationwide had no access at all. By empowering states to direct funding to unserved areas, this legislation will allow for increased economic development and help rural communities in every state have access to reliable and affordable broadband service.”

The bill was co-lead in the House with Representative Cooper and introduced in the Senate by Senators Cornyn and Manchin. Please see below to read their and other stakeholders’ statements.

 “As we increasingly depend on digital communication to work, learn, and stay connected, we must not leave those without access to broadband in the dark,” said Senator Cornyn. “This bill will help bridge the digital divide and ensure Texans have access to more affordable broadband options across the state. Allowing governors, not bureaucrats in Washington, to direct broadband dollars is crucial to ensuring Texans are connected.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the gaps in broadband service in Tennessee. Teachers, students, businesses, and even folks who want to visit family, had to quickly adapt to virtual platforms to teach, learn, grow, and be together. We cannot become a more equitable society if we don’t get internet access to our underserved communities.” – Representative Jim Cooper (TN-05)

“Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) supports the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act and thanks Sen. John Cornyn and Congressman Roger Williams for their work on this legislation,” said Russell Boening, TFB President. “Broadband access is extremely crucial to Texas farmers, ranchers and rural residents, especially as technology in farming and needs for online marketing and purchases progress. Additionally, the need for virtual and remote school learning has increased the need for rural broadband. We applaud leaders of Congress like Sen. Cornyn and Congressman Williams for finding common sense solutions to expand rural connectivity. We look forward to working with key leaders in Congress to pass this legislation.”

“Connect2Edcuate is proud to support the meaningful and common sense legislation as proposed by Senators’ Cornyn & Manchin along with Representatives’ Williams and Cooper as presented this week,” said JJ McGrath, founder of Connect2Educate and Owner Operator of Tekwav, a rural internet service provider in North Texas. “Broadband access has long been an issue in the United States, and we feel this Bill provides meaningful reform and the means necessary to begin closing the digital divide in the United States”

“The ‘Eliminate the Digital Divide Act’ would provide states with much-needed funding and flexibility to close broadband coverage gaps locally—gaps that may have been overlooked by past federally-administered programs. States often have the best vantage point from which to identify and address specific needs, and this Act empowers state and local action by those who know their areas best. We applaud Congressman Williams and Senators Manchin and Cornyn for their work on this important legislation.”  – Tom Ferree, Connected Nation Chairman and CEO

“The prospects for significant broadband expansion in Texas have never been more bright. Federal legislation like the ‘Eliminate the Digital Divide Act’ will dovetail nicely with simultaneous efforts by the State Legislature to create a state broadband office, strategic plan, and infrastructure grant program. We’re incredibly grateful for the work that Congressman Williams and Senators Manchin and Cornyn are doing on this important legislation to help close the Digital Divide once and for all.” – Jennifer Harris, Connected Nation Texas State Program Director

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Congressman Roger Williams represents the 25th Congressional District of Texas and serves as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and as Vice-Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee.

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