Nichols, Clardy working to bring high-speed internet to rural areas

by Cristin Parker

Both Senator Robert Nichols and Representative Travis Clardy have made joint effort to widen the information superhighway in Cherokee County and other rural areas.

Nichols, (R)-Jacksonville, filed Senate Bill 14 and Clardy co-wrote House Bill 2422 to help expand access to broadband internet services in rural areas of Texas. Both bills were recently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

SB 14 is designed to help increase access to broadband internet for rural areas in Texas by working with electric cooperatives.

“All of the other plans for broadband that (were) proposed use subsidies,” Nichols told KLTV/KTRE-ABC affiliates. “This one asks the state for nothing -- it asks the federal government for nothing.”

Broadband service, as laid out in SB 14, means internet service with the capability of providing a download speed of 25 megabits per second or faster and an upload speed of three megabits per second or faster.

According to SB 14, area electric co-ops are nonprofits that “more than 300,000 miles of distribution lines” that could be tapped into for broadband support.

“They already have the authority to do broadband and that type of stuff, all the electric co-ops have it,” Nichols said. “Lots of rural areas are not served by anybody for high-speed internet. I’m talking 50 megabytes-per-second type quality that they have in urban areas. And, what this bill does, is about the easements and it allows them to use those poles and easements for broadband -- it’s real simple.”

Nichols said by utilizing existing electricity infrastructure, Texas electric cooperatives will be able to deploy broadband to the members they serve to meet their need for high-speed internet.

“We are excited about Senate Bill 14 passing and the possibilities of it simulating additional rural growth in East Texas,” Cherokee County Electric Cooperative Association Member Service Advisor Merry Caroline Curry said. “There are still several details that need to be ironed out and studies that have to be conducted before debuting any options to our members.”

SB 14 takes effect immediately.

Clardy, (R)-Nacogdoches, co-authored House Bill 2422 with Rep. Doc Anderson from Waco, to further efforts to bring broadband to rural Texas.

“Bringing broadband to rural East Texas has been a priority of mine from the day I stepped foot in the Capitol to represent you,” Clardy said in a statement posted on his social media. “Faster internet means school children will have more educational opportunities, businesses will have greater capacity, and job creators will now have more options in Texas.

“That’s what this is about, I want to make sure the kids in Woden, or New Summerfield, or Tatum, or Rusk or wherever they may be in House District 11 to have the same opportunity to learn, get information and have an opportunity to make themselves better. With HB 2422 having been signed by the Governor, that goal is one step closer to becoming a reality!”

HB 2422 allows the Texas Department of Transportation and private entities to collaborate “to encourage and coordinate efforts to plan, relocate, install or improve broadband conduit in highway right-of-way in conjunction with any current or planned highway construction.”

HB 2422 defines “broadband” as a mass-market retail service by wire or radio that provides the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all Internet endpoints, including capabilities that are incidental to and enable the operation of the service. The term includes a service that is functionally equivalent to the service described by this subdivision.

HB 2422 will go into effect Sept. 1.