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From Odessa to Odesa, there’s a model for broadband in Texas

New research by Rice University’s Baker Institute, supported by Texas 2036, examines the prospect of expanding high-speed internet access in Texas with different technologies, including low-Earth orbit satellites.

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By Jorge Barro and Luis Acuña for Texas 2036

Jorge Barro is a public finance fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and Luis Acuña is a senior policy advisor at Texas 2036.

“In both the West Texas oil town and the war-torn Ukrainian port, local residents — for very different reasons — are connecting to the internet through a network of low-Earth orbit satellites that beam broadband signals into areas where residents are cut off from land-based connections.”

“As of 2019, nearly 10% of the state — 852,000 households — still didn’t have any internet access at home, while in 2020 an estimated 2.8 million Texas households didn’t have broadband.”

“SpaceX, the company founded by one of our newest Texans: Elon Musk, has launched more than 2,000 of what could be 40,000 satellites into orbit about 200 miles above the earth. Other companies launching similar ventures include Tesla, OneWeb and Amazon.”

“Last year, the American Rescue Plan Act approved by Congress included about $500 million for Texas to improve broadband infrastructure. Those funds could cover the startup fees for more than 800,000 Texas households, or nearly all of the households lacking home internet.”

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