BROADBAND: CABLE AND TEXAS PRIORITY

| March 03, 2021 | |

BROADBAND: CABLE AND TEXAS PRIORITY

During this legislative session, the Texas Cable Association (TCA) and its five member cable providers look forward to joining with Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature to bring broadband service to more Texans. Abbott has declared broadband expansion a legislative emergency item, and a number of legislators have filed related bills.

In addition, the governor in his State of the State address said he would like to see the use of telemedicine (which relies on broadband) grow so that it benefits Texans across the state.

For more than two decades, cable operators have invested billions of dollars of private capital in infrastructure, technology, low-income access programs and more. 

The Texas Cable Association is ready to work with Abbott and the Texas Legislate to bring vital broadband service to even more unserved Texans.


“From medicine to education to business, broadband access is not a luxury, it is an essential tool that must be available for all Texans,” Abbott said in his State of the State address.

Cable operators agree. Over the years, broadband has become an increasingly necessary part of our daily lives. And – in the past year – the COVID-19 pandemic has made broadband absolutely critical for school, work, operating businesses, obtaining health care, social interaction and other tasks. 

Cable has long been committed to helping close the digital divide by promoting the benefits of broadband, encouraging families to connect, and by offering programs that help families overcome barriers they may face. TCA and its member companies have been meeting with bill sponsors to ensure that broadband-related legislation establishes best industry practices and offers a best value to Texas consumers.

As a result: 

Cable operators have invested their own money to build and continually upgrade broadband networks across the country. In 2019, cable providers spent $18 billion on infrastructure and networks, part of the $168 billion invested from 2010 to 2020.

In addition, cable companies make low-cost internet available to low-income families with children who qualify for the National School Lunch program. Through this initiative, cable companies provide discounted Internet services, hardware, digital literacy training, and technology centers across the country to increase accessibility and help close the digital divide. More than 10 million consumers nationally have been connected to the internet through low-cost broadband programs.

Connecting kids at school, or helping them connect at home, is critical not just for their education now, but to prepare them for an increasingly technical and competitive U.S. economy.

The cable industry nationally also has invested more than $650 million in digital literacy training and awareness since 2011.

Here are some of the specific broadband expansion initiatives from TCA member companies:

Altice USA (Suddenlink services)

Altice USA in September 2017 announced the expansion of its Economy Internet program to households that qualify for the National School Lunch Program and senior citizens who qualify for Supplemental Security Income in service areas covered by Suddenlink Communications. In addition, Altice USA works with hundreds of community centers and libraries to provide free broadband in computer labs and other public spaces, enabling residents with access to high-speed internet at no charge in their communities. (UPDATED)

Charter Spectrum

Charter Spectrum Internet Assist, launched in November 2016, targets families with students who participate in the National School Lunch Program and seniors aged 65 and older who receive Supplemental Security Income program benefits. 

On Feb. 1, 2021, Charter launched a new multiyear, multibillion-dollar broadband buildout initiative to deliver gigabit high-speed broadband access to more than 1 million unserved customer locations, including some in Texas, as estimated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and awarded to Charter in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. Charter expects to invest approximately $5 billion to support its buildout initiative – offset by $1.2 billion in support won from the RDOF auction – expanding Charter’s network to lower-density, mostly rural communities that do not have access to broadband service of at least 25/3 Mbps.

The new initiative is in addition to Charter’s existing network expansion plans, including numerous state broadband grant projects, as well as the company’s previously planned privately funded expansions. The network Charter will build in these rural areas will offer 1 Gbps high–speed broadband access to all newly served customer locations with starting speeds of 200 Mbps, enabling consumers to engage in remote learning, work, telemedicine and other applications that require high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity.

Comcast

Since 2011, Comcast’s Internet Essentials nationally has connected more than 8 million low-income Americans to the internet, as well as provided more than $700 million of support for digital literacy training, benefiting over 8.5 million people. In addition, the company has sold more than 135,000 free or affordable subsidized computers.

Comcast on Feb. 2, 2021, made several announcements that build on its longstanding commitment to advancing digital equity, closing the digital divide, and addressing both digital literacy and the homework gap. The new and expanded efforts are designed to help connect as many Americans to the internet as possible and create new opportunities for underrepresented communities through the education, resources and skills training they need to succeed in today’s digital economy. 

Among the steps announced:

  • Accelerating Internet Essentials: Automatically doubling the program’s internet download speed to 50 Mbps and increasing the upstream speed to 5 Mbps for all new and existing customers at no additional cost. 
  • Launching 1,000 Lift Zones by December 2021 – a year ahead of its original plan.
  • Targeting philanthropic investments to education and equity-focused organizations working to increase digital equity and contributing to the collective action needed to drive sustained change.

Sparklight

Since 2014, through its Chromebooks for Kids initiative, Sparklight has provided Chromebooks annually to Title I schools to help bridge the digital divide in schools that lack funding. The company has donated more than 1,500 Chromebooks to schools across its footprint to date. 

Through its annual Dream Bigger social media campaign, Sparklight provides schools and organizations serving K-12 students in Sparklight communities the opportunity to win funding for their STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) project or club. Donations through this spring will total more than $50,000 from Sparklight and other Cable One brands since its inception. 

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