FLOYD COUNTY, Texas (KCBD) - Floyd County Judge Marty Lucke is just one of 15 people in Texas working on behalf of the State of Texas to identify the challenges and find solutions to get broadband to the nearly 930,000 Texans who don’t have access.
Governor Greg Abbott named the Broadband Development Council in January and charged them with submitting a report by each November 1. According to the first report, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for broadband in underserved areas of Texas.
Judge Lucke told KCBD through a Zoom interview that the “dead spots” in Texas are not only in rural areas like Floyd County, but in urban areas as well. He said the education, health and safety of Texans are being impacted by this, especially as many learn, work and seek healthcare from home.
“Our first meeting actually had to be done by Zoom because of the pandemic,” Lucke said. “It has really amplified the need for education at all levels, not only our public schools, but the accessibility for secondary education in colleges and universities. Also the telemedicine, whether it’s mental health or physical health, that has really been amplified, especially with everything going on. We have a large amount of our population that is highly vulnerable to [COVID-19]. If they can do a doctor’s appointment, just like we’re doing this interview, that that makes it a lot easier on them and they’re less likely to be exposed.”
According to the report, there are regulatory, economic, market and technical barriers to getting broadband to all Texans. Lack of coordination among necessary parties is also impeding broadband development. That’s why the council recommends a statewide plan and office in this first report.
“That office is the most important part, one that that shows that you’re truly dedicated,” Lucke said. “I’m not for bigger government but I think that’s an important part that we have to have. People can see we are dedicated but it also gives a point of contact for every level, from the citizen all the way to the legislature to get ideas and thoughts across.”
Lucke said finding the funding for this development will also be necessary and something that will have to be addressed in the next legislative session.
“The first step was establishing the council,” Lucke said. “Now, I think that it’s going to be directed by the legislature in the direction that the legislature feels the State needs to go. That, to me, that is the main part of their job is to take care of the citizens of the state of Texas and they’ve done a good job in the past, and they will continue to do that.”
To see the Broadband Development Council’s 2020 report, click here.