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    Legislative Services

    County Issues Newsletter | February 2024

    News Article | February 23, 2024

    NTIA: Internet for All Coming to Texas

    County News | Legislative News
    Legislative Services

    The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) submitted the following article. We are republishing it here given its interest to Texas counties.

    It's the most exciting time in both Texas's and our country's history when it comes to connectivity. Texas will be allocated $3.3 billion from the US Department of Commerce's Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program – the most in the nation! The Texas Broadband Development Office (Texas BDO), tasked with distributing the funds, is in the midst of planning activities and stakeholder engagement. That is where you can make the state a better place for all Texans.

    How you can be involved

    Many of you likely joined the Texas BDO's monthly local government roundtables, participated in a regional working group, or attended an in-person meeting in your community. Your voices helped inform Texas's five-year action plan for connecting all Texans and the state's formal proposal for distribution of funds, also known as the Initial Proposal. In November, local governments had an opportunity to comment on this proposal.

    Additionally, local governments are one of three entities that will have the opportunity to provide feedback on where funding should go – down to the individual location level via the state's BEAD challenge process! You know your community and are the best advocates for making sure every resident is connected.

    What else you should know

    Local governments will not receive their own automatic allotment of BEAD funds, in contrast to the way they received funds from the American Rescue Plan Act/State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (ARPA/SLFRF). The BEAD Program's priorities are last-mile unserved and underserved locations and community anchor institutions. A local government will be eligible to apply to the state for BEAD infrastructure funds only as a state subgrantee and only if it is (or is planning to operate as) an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

    There are, however, many ways local governments can be involved in the process without ISP status. You can partner with an ISP to seek an infrastructure subgrant (though the ISP will be the applicant and the entity to receive funds), identify community-specific connectivity priorities and long-term high-speed Internet needs, and/or meet with ISPs to understand their goals. An ISP's partnership with a local government could increase efficiency in the deployment process by aligning permit schedules, waivers, and inspection times.

    When awarding BEAD Program subgrants, 75% of the scoring criteria is determined by program guidelines, with project costs, affordability, and fair labor practices as the largest components. States then have flexibility to determine the remaining 25% of criteria, allowing scoring that supports unique state needs and preferences. Local governments could use the Texas-specific criteria to align proposed ISP partner applications with state scoring criteria to make an application as strong as possible.

    What to do today