Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) are supporting 63 applicants that are seeking a total of $793 million in funds from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). Gov. Perry designated TDA, in partnership with PUC and in consultation with the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC), to lead the state’s broadband deployment initiatives and represent the interests of Texas to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
“The projects we are supporting, if funded, will assist in bringing broadband and high-speed Internet to all Texans,” Commissioner Staples said. “It is essential our families, rural schools, hospitals and small businesses have fast access to the information superhighway if we are going to maintain a competitive advantage in Texas, and these project recommendations are a step toward ensuring that.”
“The availability of high-speed Internet service is vital for all Texans and an important tool for economic development,” said Commissioner Donna Nelson of the Public Utility Commission. “These funding opportunities have the potential to create more jobs.”
More than 170 Texas and Texas-related project applications requesting approximately $3.3 billion were submitted for federal funding and reviewed under three categories: infrastructure, which includes construction of broadband delivery equipment; public computer centers, which increase public access to education and workforce development opportunities; and sustainable adoption, to educate Texans about the importance of broadband and develop broadband markets in unserved and underserved areas.
In identifying applications to recommend, TDA and PUC established a rigorous screening process and recruited a team of approximately 40 highly qualified individuals to review the applications. Projects were screened for the ability to extend broadband service to unserved and underserved populations; reasonableness of the proposed cost of service; sustainability; the level of service to be provided; and the ability to address the policy goals of the State of Texas, BTOP and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In July 2009, NTIA announced the availability of up to $1.4 billion for broadband expansion through BTOP and subsequently received more than $9.8 billion in funding requests. NTIA sought input from Texas on those applications affecting the state. The applications TDA and PUC recommended have a total cost of approximately $775 million. The state agencies are also requesting NTIA thoroughly review all proposals affecting Texas to ensure maximum investment in the state.
Texas’ recommendations demonstrate the state’s priorities in strategically deploying broadband to all Texans. NTIA is responsible for reviewing applications for financial, technical and administrative viability and sustainability. The assistant secretary of NTIA will determine the final grant awards. Federal officials have not given a timetable for when they will announce their funding decisions.