Texas will receive more than $3.3 billion in federal money — the most of any state — to help expand broadband availability statewide, the Biden administration announced Monday.
The money will be distributed from the $42.45 billion in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program as part of President Joe Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The funds aim to connect more than 8.5 million households and small businesses nationwide — and nearly 2.8 million of those households without broadband are in Texas. Each state received at least $107 million.
Separately, the BEAD program includes more than $14 billion in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which makes broadband service more affordable for eligible households nationwide (and can be applied for now), $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, and $2 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Reconnect Program that provides loans and grants to build broadband infrastructure in eligible rural areas.
Texas and the other states can submit initial funding proposals from July 1 through Dec. 27. After the National Telecommunications and Information Administration approves proposals, which will occur on a rolling basis, states and territories will be able to access at least 20% of their funds. The Texas Broadband Development Office will allocate the funds, which will go to where the state and federal broadband maps indicate service is needed. However, service providers and local officials have disputed the accuracy of those maps.
The Biden administration has compared its investment in broadband to the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, which offered low-cost loans to help bring electricity to rural areas.
“Whether it’s connecting people to the digital economy, manufacturing fiber optic cable in America, or creating good paying jobs building internet infrastructure in the states, the investments we’re announcing will increase our competitiveness and spur economic growth across the country for years to come,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement Monday.
The $3.3 billion federal allotment will boost investments made by Texas lawmakers during this year’s legislative session. House Bill 9, filed by State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, allocates $1.5 billion to expand internet availability in the state. Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 9 into law this month, and Texans will vote on the final approval of the funds in November.
See here for some background. Between this and the microchip funding, that’s a whole lot of federal dollars coming into our state. What else is there to say, once again, but “Thank you, President Biden”! (Also, quit taking credit for things you voted against, Sen. Cornyn.)