Proposition 8 would Create a Broadband Infrastructure Fund to Expand High-Speed Broadband Access in Texas.
Access to rapid internet has been a long-standing goal of the private marketplace. Indeed, creating connectivity infrastructure has been a priority of the public and private sectors since the advent of communication technologies. Since the Communications Act of 1934, federal law has called for “mak[ing] available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States . . . a rapid, efficient, nation-wide and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges.”
Modern technology has enabled the free market expansion of low-cost basic and high-speed service throughout the state, including most rural areas. However, access has not reached all corners of the state. Established in 2019, the Governor’s Broadband Development Council was tasked with studying and identifying “ways to provide internet access to underserved areas of Texas.” A 2021 report from the Council found that roughly 250,000 households in rural Texas (8.5%) do not have access to internet at 25 Mbps, which is the threshold at which speeds are considered “high.”
It is also noteworthy that coronavirus pandemic has changed the conversation with respect to the state’s responsibilities vis-à-vis reliable internet access. Though internet access is not traditionally considered a government responsibility, many elements of that conversation changed when the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of students to attend virtual classes through digital and remote learning portals seemingly overnight. When that occurred, the state made internet access a legitimate government responsibility, at least with respect to pandemic-related school closures.
Lastly, rural Texas lacks many of the services available to other parts of the state, and access to high-speed internet can alleviate the impact of such shortages. For example, access to health care in rural areas increasingly relies on telemedicine and telehealth, which often requires high speed internet. Facilitating access to these services through high-speed, broadband internet clearly serves a legitimate government interest.
Proposition 8 will create a Broadband Infrastructure Fund of $1.5 billion to help high speed internet reach the areas of the state that remain without access.