This account is held in the General Revenue Fund and consists of:
The Broadband Development Account only can be used for administering the broadband development financial incentive program, creating or updating Texas’ broadband map, creating or updating the state broadband plan, and engaging in outreach or educational programs related to broadband.
The Comptroller’s office anticipates a five-year General Revenue cost of $3.8 million; the Texas Legislature initially appropriated $5 million to administer the Broadband Development Office. This budget includes five full-time employees to staff the office.
This program, established by HB 1505 (PDF), will:
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds provide emergency funding for states and eligible local governments across the nation. Texas received $15.8 billion from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund, and local governments in Texas received $10.5 billion from the Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. These funds are administered by the U.S. Treasury and can be used to make necessary investments in broadband infrastructure.
The state Legislature did not appropriate any funding from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund for broadband purposes. Texas residents should contact their local governments to learn how local funding is supporting broadband expansion.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund (CPF) provides $10 billion to eligible governments to carry out critical capital projects that directly enable work, education, and health monitoring, including remote options, in response to the public health emergency. Texas has been allocated $500.4 million. This fund is administered by the U.S. Treasury, and eligible uses include broadband infrastructure projects and digital connectivity technology projects.
The state Legislature appropriated all the funding from the CPF for broadband purposes. The Broadband Development Office (BDO) plans to stand up a competitive grant process to support local broadband projects around the state.
On Nov. 5, 2021, Congress passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Aside from investing in roads, bridges and other infrastructure assets, the bill seeks to extend broadband internet access to rural areas, low-income families and tribal communities. Initiatives in the broadband component of the IIJA total $65 billion, and they include:
The BDO is monitoring the progress of this bill and communicating with the federal government on drawing down these funds to best serve Texas communities.
In the 2017 farm bill, Congress created a grant program called ReConnect. The program awarded $200 million in loans and $200 million in a combination of grants and loans in 2019. Congress reauthorized an additional $600 million to be awarded in 2020. The IIJA provides an additional $2 billion to this program. These grants are administered and awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In March 2017, Congress passed a one-time $600 million grant/loan program to build rural broadband. Administered by the USDA, the project was labeled the e-Connectivity Pilot. Congress has added money to this program each year.
Administered by the FCC, this grant was funded by the Universal Service Fund, a mechanism by which interstate long-distance carriers were assessed to subsidize telephone service to low-income households and high-cost areas. The first phase was conducted in the form of a reverse auction that concluded in late 2020. That grant was supposed to award $16 billion in grants but ended up awarding a little over $9 billion. The remaining $7 billion, and another $4 billion, will be auctioned at some later date.
In 2011, the FCC created the Connect America Fund (CAF) to fulfill the statutory mandate that all U.S. residents have access to communications service that is reasonably comparable to what is available in urban areas. The FCC offered funding to the largest telecom companies for a six-year period (2015-2020) to extend 10/1 Mbps broadband to a specified number of locations and then subsequently held the CAF Phase II auction, open to competitive providers, in 2018 for those areas declined by the largest carriers.
CAF also provides support to another group of incumbent local telephone companies, which are smaller cooperatives and independent companies. These companies are subject to varying service obligations for fixed broadband: 10/1 Mbps and/or 25/3 Mbps to a specified number of residential and small-business locations.
In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, Congress appropriated $3.2 billion to the FCC to help low-income households pay for broadband service and connected internet devices. The Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program will provide a discount of up to $50 per month for broadband services for eligible consumers. Consumers who live on qualifying tribal lands can receive enhanced support of up to $75 per month toward broadband services. The IIJA replaces the EBB with the Affordable Connectivity Program and adds more than $14 billion to the program.