Digital Exclusive: More than 80 Texas lawmakers sign open letter to Governor Abbott for a statewide broadband plan

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Texas Senator Kel Seliger and Rep. Brooks Landgraf sign the open letter

PERMIAN BASIN (YourBasin) – The Coronavirus has affected West Texans in many ways including students in the Permian Basin.

The pandemic has opened the blinds to shine sunlight on many flaws such as broadband access, which according to Texas Senator Kel Seliger, is a problem that has been talking amongst Texas lawmakers for several years.

“Rural Texas is behind and that’s the problem,” said Seliger.

Texas Senator Seliger tweeted the open letter to Governor Greg Abbott last week. The letter inked with suggestions and recommendations for a statewide broadband plan for rural communities.

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit back in March, school districts scrambled to move learning online for the remainder of the school.

With the pandemic looming in West Texas, ECISD faced their own education epidemic.

“The COVID virus and the need to do so many things remotely, like school, have pointed out how important the internet and broadband are,” said Seliger.

According to ECISD Superintendent Dr. Scott Muri, 39% of students either have no internet access or limited internet access.

“It’s a critical need,” said Muri. “The thoughts of our kids not having access to their teachers and having to drive to a local McDonald’s or Starbucks or even sit in a parking lot just to attend school, that’s unfadable.”

As ECISD began the 2020-2021, their phase one plan included students who had no broadband access to attend in person instead of online learning.

The district has received CARES Act funding to purchase devices to give to students but Muri states without broadband, those devices are useless to the kids.

“We’re seeing right now is kids trying to go to school virtually. They need that broadband,” said Seliger.

Representative Brooks Landgraf joined the fight to bring broadband to the four counties he represents.

Landgraf says it’s time to treat broadband as a utility and not as a luxury.

“The bottom line is this is going to be an all hands on deck effort,” said Landgraf.

Landgraf believes a large part of the fight has been won with lawmakers recognizing the problem and bringing it to attention.

“Because of the challenges being brought on by COVID-19 and having to work more from home or learn more from home, having broadband access at home is more important than it’s ever been,” said Landgraf.

Lawmakers are smoothing out the kinks of the fiber optic cables but the power button could be in trouble as the year ends, and they return to Austin for legislative session in January 2021.

“It’s really up to those companies that provide that broadband. Then, when we will get into legislation and see what we need to do. Both in terms of legislation and terms of funding. That’s the challenge for 2021 because we already know we have a 4.8 billion dollar deficit in the budget projection,” said Seliger.

Every day, there seems to be a new problem or challenge with COVID-19. And, those issues will stick around long after the pandemic ends.

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