When Texas was awarded $3.3 billion in federal money last month toward expanding broadband infrastructure across the state, government leaders and telecommunication companies celebrated the news.
With over 7 million residents disconnected from the rest of the World Wide Web, Texas’ broadband needs were no secret. With the federal funds, along with $1.5 billion from the state’s wallet, rural and underserved Texas communities finally saw a chance to catch up with technology in the rest of the country.
One month later, as the state prepares to submit a five-year plan to federal agencies on broadband deployment, the finer details of who may qualify for federal money in the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program has come into sharper focus.
And rural Texas advocates and owners of smaller telecommunication companies worry the communities they serve will be shut out of the historic investment.
The regulations require each telecommunication company applying for a grant to provide a letter of credit from a major bank that covers at least 25% of the proposed project — essentially putting millions of dollars on the table to apply for a grant it isn’t guaranteed to receive.
The Texas Broadband Development Office has until Aug. 28 to submit its five-year plan to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for funding.
The Broadband Development Office is hosting public meetings through Aug. 16 throughout the state to get local input on the state’s broadband needs.