About 1 million Texans don’t have home access to broadband, a state report found last summer.
The pandemic made Texas’ already gaping digital divide much more challenging, which had lawmakers pledging to close that gap. Gov. Greg Abbott named expanding broadband access one of his priority items at the beginning of session, and last week two omnibus bills gained traction when they each were unanimously voted out of their House and Senate committees.
About 15% of households in metropolitan areas don’t have access to broadband data plans, he said, and the problem can’t just be solved with infrastructure. Families also struggle with affordability and gaps in digital literacy.
It’s important to include “regular people” in the discussion process for these plans, said Josephine López Paul, the lead organizer for Dallas Area Interfaith, a coalition of congregations, schools and nonprofits. López Paul, who helps organize advocates around issues in their Dallas County communities, has noticed that many are still grappling with the same internet challenges as they were at the start of the pandemic.
“They need to do some bottom-up listening and not just assume they have a plan that’s going to work with people,” López Paul said. “They can put broadband structures in areas and if people don’t know that it’s there or that they need it … it’s just going to be a wasted effort.”
In recent hearings that drew overwhelmingly positive feedback from nonprofit advocates, school leaders and internet service providers, one lawmaker emphasized the bills aren’t a foolproof solution on their own.
[Photo Credit: Lola Gomez/DMN Staff Photographer]
Texas' Push to Expand Broadband Access Gains Traction, Dallas Morning News [pdf]
In a well-attended nonpartisan accountability assembly north of Dallas, DAI engaged primary candidates in competitive districts, including Congressional District 32, House Districts 102 and 114, and Senate District 2.
Leaders from Richardson, Garland and North Dallas engaged congressional primary candidates around active support for DACA and comprehensive immigration reform, protection of newly finalized Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) auto title and payday lending rules, and federal investments in local job training program Skill QUEST.
From state primary candidates, leaders secured pledges around local control of payday lending ordinances, restoration of state funding to public schools and increased funding for workforce development (Adult Career Education Fund) from $4.5 Million to its original $10 Million.
Clergy and lay leaders of Dallas Area Interfaith are building and strengthening their constituencies in the suburbs so that elected officials better represent their families.