Fall in Texas means the kickoff of football season – a moment many of us look forward to all summer. This year, Texans have another thing to look forward to: expansion of broadband connectivity across the state. As we snap the ball on broadband deployment, it’s important to take stock of the progress made and lessons learned as we set our sights on the next big goal.
In my twenty-five years working for AT&T, I’ve seen connectivity’s value remain constant for hardworking Texans. Broadband brings opportunities that not only improve Texans’ day-to-day lives but invite economic growth – allowing our ranchers to participate in online cattle auctions, our families to reach healthcare providers at home and our public safety to coordinate responses to natural disasters.
This past May, legislators created the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund (TBIF), putting critical funding toward broadband deployment in the state.
To expand these opportunities to the nearly 25% of all Texans1 – including 1.1 million public school students2 – without access to a strong and reliable internet connection, Texans will soon have the opportunity vote to make the most of an unprecedented opportunity to close the digital divide.
This November, the TBIF will be on the ballot as Proposition 8. Every vote for it is a vote in favor of providing critical funding for Next Generation 911 and expanding broadband networks to help close the digital divide – keeping Texas’ communities and first responders better connected.
And in a state where as many as 7 million people still lack adequate access to high-speed internet, this funding comes at the perfect time to work in concert with the federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program.
When deploying broadband, I know how partnerships between the public and private sectors can magnify these investments. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and it’s true for broadband deployment too. Together, we can further employ this model to increase the number of people getting connected.
- In Amarillo, we’ve teamed up with the community on a $24 million project to connect more than 22,000 households and businesses across the city with AT&T Fiber.
- And the momentum for bridging the digital divide doesn’t stop there. We’re also investing in new macro sites to bring greater coverage and capacity to communities like New Waverly, Seminole and Humble.
As broadband expansion is underway, Texans may also need help affording or adopting home internet. To help lower the cost of monthly internet bills, we’re spreading the word about the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible households with an up to $30/month benefit. And with over 1.5 million Texans subscribed3, we’re already seeing the impact across the state.
- Eligible customers can apply the ACP benefit to the plan that works best for them including our Access from AT&T plan.4 The plan – when combined with the ACP benefit – can provide no-cost home internet service for eligible households.
Texans can also access free internet through one of the 5 AT&T Connected Learning Centers in the state. These centers, housed inside local organizations, provide community members with a place where they can reliably access the internet, receive information on ACP, attend digital literacy workshops and so much more.
Knowing the profound impact a connection can have, we’ve also worked with community stakeholders to facilitate over 75 digital literacy workshops and distribute over 7,300 refurbished laptops to Texas students and families in need – with plans for similar events on the horizon.
- At two digital literacy workshops in Lufkin, Texas, community members had an opportunity to learn about digital skills and affordability programs from our employee volunteers.
- Dallas families were able to swing by Vickery Meadows Youth Development Foundation to receive a free refurbished laptop during our monthly laptop distribution with Compudopt and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.
The roots of our company are here in Texas, and like any home team, we’re invested in the State’s success. With that, we look forward to continuing to equip Texans with digital connectivity. It’s time to huddle up and get ready to snap the ball on broadband funding by voting for Proposition 8 and the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund this November.
There’s never been a better time to tackle the digital divide once and for all.
3 ACP Enrollment and Claims Tracker | Universal Service Administrative Co. (July 25, 2023)
4 Plans up to 100Mbps and includes unlimited data. Limited availability/areas. Free internet subject to household’s continued ACP eligibility and application of the ACP benefit to Access from AT&T plans. Limit of one ACP benefit per household.