Commissioner Staples announces creation of Texas Broadband Task Force
To better service areas lacking high-speed Internet connectivity, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples July 8 announced the creation of the Texas Broadband Task Force. The group, which includes private-sector stakeholders and representatives from the Office of the Governor, the Texas Legislature and the Public Utility Commission, will help guide efforts to make broadband services available across the state.
"Broadband connectivity allows communities to attract new businesses, create more jobs and opens doors to the global economy," Commissioner Staples said. "High-speed Internet access improves educational and healthcare opportunities, and allows rural families to live in the country, but stay connected to the urban world. This new task force is a first step to ensure no Texan gets left behind on the information highway. I thank the members for their leadership and service."
The Texas Broadband Task Force will assist the Texas Department of Agriculture and the PUC in maximizing broadband programs created through the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Several state agencies will assist the task force in an advisory capacity and provide input to TDA and PUC.
"The Texas Cable Association and its members look forward to working with Commissioner Staples as part of the Texas Broadband Task Force to make certain that the incredible economic and social benefits of broadband connectivity are extended to Texas families and small businesses in all areas of the state," said Texas Cable Association President Dale Laine. "Cable has led the way nationally in making broadband available to about 92 percent of all households. It is critical that we identify all Texans that are left out of the Internet revolution - those who lack a computer or skills to access the Internet, and those who live in areas where broadband is unavailable."
In June, TDA issued a request for proposals to provide broadband mapping for the state of Texas. The mapping initiative and related broadband projects will be funded and implemented through federal stimulus dollars. Congress has appropriated $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Commerce recently announced they are accepting applications for projects expanding broadband service in rural areas and in other unserved or underserved areas.
"I anticipate that the $7.2 billion appropriated from the Recovery Act and efforts of the Texas Broadband Task Force working in conjunction with the TDA will expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across Texas," said Robert Hunt, Texas Telephone Association Chairman of the Board.
For a complete list of task force members, as well as the state agencies serving as advisory staff, visit the Texas Broadband Task Force link www.texasagriculture.gov/agr/main_render/0,1968,1848_31705_0_0,00.html?channelId=31705 at www.texasagriculture.gov. To view the Notice of Funds Availability issued by USDA and USDC visit http://www.usda.gov/rus/telecom/arra-broadband.htm.