The Broadband Expansion and Deployment (BEAD) federal grant program is designed to increase broadband access and adoption in unserved and underserved areas. The program provides funding to eligible entities to deploy broadband infrastructure and services in areas that lack access to high-speed internet. Grant programs have already had a positive impact by increasing broadband density in Texas. The number of households with access to broadband has increased from 68.3% in 2018 to 73.2% in 2020. Unfortunately, the definition of Broadband only claims a capacity of 25mbps download and only 3mbps of upload, making “Broadband” already obsolete.
Rural and remote areas of East Texas, such as the Big Thicket region, the Piney Woods, and the Gulf Coast are in dire need of anything resembling that low bar of Broadband. These areas have the lowest broadband access and adoption rates in the state. As well, the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Panhandle, and the Permian Basin of West Texas suffer this same indignity. Increased investment in broadband infrastructure and resulting services would bode well for these deprived areas.
Dallas-based, North Texas Fiber is making inroads in many of these areas, buoyed by previous grant wins in the earlier Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Tyler, Kilgore, Longview, Palestine, Gun Barrel City, Malakoff areas are already beginning to receive new services. NT Fiber President, Nick Costas says, “We have legislators pledging to make Texas Broadband ubiquitous, but the present designation of Broadband would be an ignominious goal. 100x100 megabit would more greatly ease the burden on these overlooked areas of our state. NT Fiber’s services typically begin at Gigabit and all services are delivered on fiber optics; a game changer for these blighted areas.” Hopefully, we will see grant writers seeking higher capacities, and funding modern internet service providers. The existing rural carriers have failed East Texas for decades.
Bobby Vassallo, Dallas