FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 03/04/2021
State Representative Hugh D. Shine Coauthors Legislation on Broadband Expansion
AUSTIN, Texas – State Representative Hugh D. Shine (Temple) has coauthored House Bill 5 with over 30 Representatives last week. House Bill 5 seeks to expand broadband access across the State of Texas.
Highlights of the upcoming legislation includes the creation of a 'Broadband Development Office' within the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, the formation of a broadband development program, the establishment of a broadband development map to be updated regularly and published by the office, and the development of a statewide broadband plan within one year of House Bill 5 becoming law on September 1, 2021.
According to Representative Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), the author of the bill, House Bill 5, "[…] will affirm the state's commitment to closing the digital divide for Texans who lack either access to internet service or the means to subscribe to the services offered in their community".
Broadband access has become more critical since the COVID pandemic started. Shine stated, "I don't think the 'work-from-home' mentality is going away as the pandemic comes to an end. Businesses no longer have to relocate to a major city, and employees don't have to work in an office for many businesses. It is important for our economy in Bell County and across Texas that we have access to high-speed broadband".
The broadband application also stretches far beyond just business. The current lack of broadband access has also affected education. "Rogers ISD is very excited to support House Bill 5 which would make high-speed broadband more accessible to rural communities and families in our district and across Texas. With the increase in digital learning, which is only expected to increase moving forward, having high-speed internet available in our students' homes is vital for their success. Currently, many of our students and staff use district-issued hotspots for internet at home because it is faster than the service available to them. Unfortunately, in some of our homes, cell phone coverage does not even allow hotspots to work effectively" said Rogers ISD Superintendent Joe Craig.
Senate Bill 5 has been filed by Senator Robert Nichols (Jacksonville). House Bill 5 was referred to State Affairs committee on March 1st. The next step for House Bill 5 is to receive a hearing by the State Affairs committee, which is chaired by Representative Chris Paddie (Marshall).
Media Contact: Charlotte E. Blakemore;