The State of Texas: where the land is ample, the hats are big, cowboy boots are standard, and the barbecue is delicious. Everything seems to be big in Texas. Everything except community broadband.
Texas is one of 17 states that have laws against the implementation of municipal broadband. Arguably, they have some of the strictest laws against it, prohibiting municipalities and municipal electric utilities from offering telecommunications to the public either directly or indirectly through a partnership with a private company.
These laws continue to limit the expansion and growth of rural areas across the state where the large telecommunication providers, like Century Link and AT&T, have failed to extend their services. In November of 2015, the Silicon Valley trade group, the Internet Association, issued a brief in support of the FCC and its efforts towards municipal broadband saying:
Access to the Internet is today the modern equivalent to access to railroads, electricity, highways, and telephone in previous eras. And just as the federal government recognized and executed its role in encouraging, promoting, and facilitating universal access to those services, the federal government today similarly recognizes its role in promoting and facilitating access to broadband services.
Since 2015, little progress has been made in the state and the ruling by the courts, striking down the FCC’s fight to supersede state power, will not help the matter. Some towns like New Braunfels continue to explore the feasibility of constructing a city-owned fiber network despite the strict state laws. They are moving forward carefully as they look to pursue a public-private partnership. They are in the early stages, rallying support from current private telecommunication providers and holding meetings to discuss cost, strategy, and feasibility of implementation. They have a long battle ahead of them as they will have to face off against the state of Texas on their own.