Capitol Update: Bridging the Digital Divide in Rural Texas

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As the mercury drops, it is crucial for us to be proactive in safeguarding our homes and well-being against the challenges posed by extreme cold weather. With last week’s drop in temperatures, I want to emphasize the importance of taking necessary precautions to ensure that every household is adequately prepared for the uncertain Texas winter. From insulating homes and sealing drafts around windows and doors to protecting pipes with proper insulation, these are fundamental steps we can all take to fortify ourselves against these chilly conditions. Additionally, weather-stripping doors and windows and maintaining a well-stocked emergency kit can further assure you are ready for what lies ahead. Additionally, here are a few useful websites:

You can check road conditions at DriveTexas.org
 
For warming center information, visit tdem.texas.gov/warm
 
To monitor and report any local outages to electricity providers, visit puc.texas.gov/storm

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol . . .

Capitol Update

Despite the current legislative interim, I’m excited to share that the fruits of our past endeavors are now in full bloom. As of January 1, 2024, a notable set of 30 new measures have taken effect, focusing on essential areas including the electric grid, water infrastructure, broadband development, and other critical areas such as a cost-of-living adjustment for retired teachers. These victories emphasize our unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of a growing and diverse state.

As rural Texans know all too well, access to broadband internet is a challenge in many rural communities. House Bill 9 provides for a strategic investment to incentivize broadband providers to help bridge the digital divide. This bill is part of a broader initiative aimed at connecting all Texans to this critical service. Complementing HB 9, House Joint Resolution 125 was overwhelmingly approved on the November ballot, paving the way for the establishment of the Broadband Infrastructure Fund. The fund’s primary objective is to enhance broadband access and affordability through strategic infrastructure investments, working in conjunction with federal funding programs. Beyond this, the fund will provide crucial support for emergency response technology, reduce fees on monthly phone bills, and fund programs such as next-generation 911 services and school safety initiatives.

As a native East Texan, ensuring rural Texas is not left behind has always been near to my heart. As we navigate further into the digital era, the urgency for every citizen to be able to access digital learning, telehealth, work remotely, apply for jobs, market their businesses, and so much more is vital to our region. This bill provides our state with the necessary tools to continue its work to provide greater connectivity in rural Texas, and I am proud to see it move fully into effect.

Reminders

The mobile office is on the road again and our office looks forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: February 7 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9 – 11:00 am; February 14 at the Polk County Commissioners Courtroom in Livingston from 9 – 11:00 am, or the Tyler County Courthouse in Woodville from 1:30 – 3:30 pm; February 21 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9 – 11 am, or at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton from 1:30 – 3:30 pm.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Rep. Trent Ashby
Trent Ashby is honored to be representing District 57 in the Texas House of Representatives. House District 57 includes Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity Counties. He can be reached at (512) 463-0508, (936)634-2762, or by email at trentashby@house.state.tx.us.

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