AUSTIN — Earlier this week, in a bombshell report by the Texas Tribune, it was revealed that internet and phone services for rural Texans have been threatened because the state of Texas recently cut subsidies that help providers offer phone and internet services in sparsely populated areas.
Under Greg Abbott and Texas Republican leadership, more rural hospitals have closed in Texas than any other state in the country, the state refuses to expand Medicaid leaving healthcare in rural communities decimated, and our rural communities are getting left behind in the 21st century technological age.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can chart a path forward that benefits all Texans, be it in urban or rural America.
“Some rural Texans are facing the threat of losing phone and internet service after the state recently slashed subsidies that help providers offer service in sparsely populated areas.”
“More than a million Texas households are in rural areas where network phone service is more expensive to provide, with fewer customers and longer distances between them. Broadband internet service is not subsidized but is often provided on those same lines. Normally, the state reimburses telecommunication companies for providing service in these areas through the Texas Universal Service Fund. But for the past five years, the fund has been bleeding money.”
“The ongoing funding issues have forced some companies to stop building out networks for new customers. It’s also affected their ability to maintain service lines, said Rusty Moore, president of the Texas Telephone Association and CEO of Big Bend Telephone Co. Other, smaller companies could go bankrupt soon, Moore said.”
“‘These are critical infrastructure networks,’ Moore said. ‘911 could be threatened. All emergency services along the borders — for Big Bend, we serve quite a bit of border security — the mechanisms, the investments in the networks that we’re able to make are truly in jeopardy, immediately. And we are already seeing that reduction.’”
“Even though it’s impacting rural folks in a disproportionate manner, it’s a statewide issue,” White said. “Oil and gas, agriculture, timber — all of that begins in a location in rural Texas. If we want to continue to pull ourselves out of this COVID economic ditch, we’re going to have to make sure that East Texas, and all of rural Texas, is connected to the entire world.”
Republican leadership continues to fail our rural communities.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:
“Our rural communities are the backbone of Texas. Yet, in every single way, Republican state leaders continue to treat them as second class citizens. Slashing subsidies for internet and phone services in rural communities is unconscionable. Our rural communities are already struggling to survive. Without widespread broadband, the challenges they face are going to continue to get worse.
“We need a real, comprehensive plan to revitalize our rural communities and ensure their survival. We need a plan that keeps rural hospitals open, incentivizes investment into our most vulnerable communities, and ensures that these communities are afforded the same necessities like internet and phone services like the rest of the state.
“Abbott, Patrick, and the Republican state legislature have failed our rural communities. It’s time to elect sensible leaders who will push through these necessary changes. It’s time to elect Democrats who will fight for all communities — be it in urban or rural America.”