FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Chair, House Committee on Transportation, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, met with Dr. Luis Navarro, Therapeutic Optometrist, Optometric Glaucoma Specialist, and owner, Edinburg Vision Center, to review issues facing that profession and their patients. The two men met at Canales’ law office in Edinburg.
Photograph By ALMA URIBE
Landmark plan aimed at providing unserved regions, including many areas in South Texas, with access to vital high-speed Internet, features Rep. Terry Canales as a joint author
A landmark legislative plan that would provide unserved regions, including many areas in South Texas, with access to vital high-speed Internet, such as needed for online learning from school for students who are unable to get to campus, and for Texans to receive health care through telemedicine, features Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, as a joint author.
“My office has been working on broadband Internet issues for years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began late last March, we have worked closely with the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court, area cities, and school districts to study the problem and find solutions,” said Canales, who also serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation. Canales. “The pandemic has only magnified the Internet issues we have in South Texas. Many parts of our community do not have access to truly high-speed Internet or they can not afford the high monthly cost.”
The term broadband refers to high-speed Internet access.
Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, is the main author of the measure, House Bill 5.
An author is a legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).
As a joint author, Canales was authorized by Ashby to join in the authorship of House Bill 5, and to have his name shown following Ashby’s in official printings of the measure, on calendars, and in the journal. Only four joint authors are allowed, and Canales was the only state representative from the Rio Grande Valley chosen as a joint author.
A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both chambers of the legislature and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state. “Bill” types include Senate and House bills, Senate and House Joint Resolutions, Senate and House concurrent resolutions, and Senate and House resolutions.
“Our legislation will create a Broadband Development Office and a Broadband Development Program, which will later be able to create a plan for the entire state,” Canales explained. “Right now, Texas is one of six states in the U.S. that does not have a plan and is regularly left at a disadvantage when seeking out precious federal dollars because no such plan has been enacted.”
“House Bill 5 is representative of months of stakeholder meetings and aims to bridge the digital divide in rural, suburban, and urban portions of the state,” said Ashby. “This holistic (detailed) approach seeks to boost broadband service in Texas by forming a state broadband office, creating a comprehensive state broadband plan, identifying which areas of the state have the greatest need through mapping, and funding projects to increase access and adoption in those areas.”
As a result of the pandemic, most Texans better understand the impact of the Internet in all major phases of society.
“Imagine what it is like for millions of Texans who live in areas where no one is providing Internet service at all,” Canales said. “Not having access to Internet services hurts economic development, educational opportunities, state and local law enforcement, state emergency preparedness, and the delivery of health care services, including telemedicine or telehealth, to an enormous number of fellow Texans.”
According to The American Academy of Family Physicians:
• Telemedicine is the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance. A physician in one location uses a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver care to a patient at a distant site.
• Telehealth refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at-a-distance.
• Telehealth is different from telemedicine in that it refers to a broader scope of remote health care services than telemedicine. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services.
“The dependence of Texans on reliable, high-speed broadband access during the pandemic demonstrates clearly the need to expand access to broadband to every inch of the State and this is the session to do it,” added Ashby. “House Bill 5 is a priority for the Texas House, and for the millions of Texans counting on us to bridge the digital divide once and for all.”
The digital divide refers to the gap between those able to benefit from thedigital age and those who are not. The concern is that people without access to the Internetand other information and communication technologies will be disadvantaged, as they are unable or less able to obtain digital information, shop online, participate democratically, or learn skills and offer skills. This resulted in programs to give computers and related services to people without access.
Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, has filed Senate Bill 5, which is identical in language to House Bill 5.
The word “file” is used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.
“Creation of a state broadband plan will prioritize those corners of the state where access to the internet does not currently exist, as well as those individual Texans who lack the knowledge or recourses to gain access to what is now an essential service,” said Nichols. “This proactive measure to develop a long-term plan for critical Texas infrastructure will send a clear message that Texas is serious about broadband expansion.”
Specifically, House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 5, as respectively introduced, propose the following goals:
• Creation of a Broadband Development Office within the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts;
• A Broadband Development Program, funded by the newly established Broadband Development Account;
• Establishment of a Broadband Development Map, to be updated regularly and published by the Office; and
• The development, no later than a year after the bill becomes law, of a statewide broadband plan.
The filing of House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 5 came on the heels of a letter that Ashby, Nichols, and 86 members of the Legislature sent to Gov. Greg Abbott in September 2019 requesting the creation of a statewide broadband plan.
On Monday, February 1, 2021, Abbott included broadband development as a priority item on his agenda for the ongoing 87th Texas Legislature.
The Texas Legislature began its 140-day regular session on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, and ends on Monday, May 31, 2021.
The Governor’s Broadband Development Council (GBDC) was established in 2019 by the 86th Texas Legislature in order to study and identify ways to provide internet access to underserved areas of Texas.
Duties of the council include:
• Research the progress of broadband development in unserved areas;
• Identify barriers to residential and commercial broadband deployment in unserved areas;
• Study technology-neutral solutions to overcome barriers identified under Subdivision; and
• Analyze how statewide access to broadband would benefit:
(A) Economic development;
(B) The delivery of educational opportunities in higher education and public education;
(C) State and local law enforcement;
(D) State emergency preparedness; and
(E) The delivery of health care services, including telemedicine and telehealth.
FIVE DEGREE PROGRAMS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY RECEIVE TOP RANKINGS FROM INTELLIGENT.COM
Anumber ofdegree programs at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, have received top rankings by Intelligent.com.
The UTRGV degrees that received the highest rankings were:
No. 1Masters in Sports Medicine Degree Programs.
No. 1 Physician Assistant Degree Programs.
No. 2 Masters in Math Education Degree Programs.
No. 2 Masters in Health Services Degree Programs.
No. 2 Masters in Science Education Degree Programs.
Intelligent.comis an online, education-focused ranking group that collects publicly available data to help pre-college students choose the best colleges and programs for them.
Based on an assessment of more than 2,000 colleges and universities, UTRGV received a total of 18 recognitions for its research opportunities, affordability, and curriculum quality.
TheSocial Work Degree Program ranked No. 5 and was named “Best in the South.”
“We want our students to have opportunities for innovative programs that help them become leaders in their fields,” said Dr. Janna Arney, UTRGV Deputy President, and Interim Provost. “We have extremely dedicated faculty and staff who create these opportunities and work alongside our students to create a unique and engaging educational environment.”
For the full list of the degree programs and other rankings, visit Intelligent.com’s Best Online Degrees.
The 2021 rankings are calculated through a unique scoring system that includes student engagement, the potential return on investment, and leading third-party evaluations.Intelligent.com analyzed thousands of schools with comparable programs on a scale of 0 to 100.
UTRGV made it to the final list for 18 degree programs.
The methodology uses an algorithm that collects and analyzes multiple rankings into one score to easily compare each university’s degree program.
“Intelligent.com provides unbiased research to help students make informed decisions about higher education programs. The website offers curated guides which include the best degree programs, as well as information about financial aid, internships, and study strategies. With comprehensive, user-friendly guides and hundreds of program rankings, Intelligent.comis a trusted source among students and prospective students. To learn more, visit https://www.intelligent.com/.”
Amanda L. Alaniz contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, is the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation. Rep. Canales represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr, and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426.