Good News Announced For Broadband Infrastructure
Jorge D. Ayala, Regional Director for the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), visited East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) offices recently to join in announcing its award of $375,000 to ETCOG to support the development of a regional broadband strategic plan for 14 counties in East Texas.
ETCOG applied for the grant in December proposing to develop a strategic plan that will help identify and address existing gaps in broadband access for businesses across the region. In addition, the grant will help the region capitalize on its strengths and opportunities related to long-term economic development, create or enhance an environment that is conducive to job growth, and improve infrastructure and overall community development to improve the quality of life.
The grant is issued to the East Texas Economic Development District (ETEDD) administered by ETCOG which is comprised of representatives from East Texas economic development agencies and elected officials. Economic Development Districts are designated by EDA and housed at Councils of Governments to help lead the locally-based, regionally driven economic development planning process that leverages the involvement of the public, private and non-profit sectors to establish a strategic blueprint for regional collaboration. With the $375,000 grant, ETCOG and its local economic development partner agencies have committed to an additional investment of $161,000 in local matching funds, for total project funding of $536,000.
“We recognize the critical impact broadband infrastructure has on economic development and have been seeking rural broadband funding solutions for the East Texas Region since 2009. To be honest, there were days that I wondered if a day like today would ever come,” said ETCOG Executive Director, David Cleveland. “I realize this grant represents one step of many that must occur to help our businesses secure the Broadband service they need at a price they can afford. Nonetheless, this is a critical first step indeed.”
The announcement meeting held last week was to inform regional economic development partners and the general public. It had approximately 40 guests in attendance and included comments from EDA Regional Director Jorge Ayala; the ETEDD board chair, Commissioner Paula Gentry; ETCOG’s Board Chair, Alderman Victor Perot; and David Cleveland.
During the meeting, Mr. Cleveland detailed the grassroots approach outlined in the grant application to build a regional broadband strategic plan. The project will begin soon with a survey of the business community within each county to establish a list of critical broadband needs. These counties are Anderson, Camp, Cherokee, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Marion, Panola, Rains, Rusk, Smith, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood. ETCOG staff will then work with each county to rank and prioritize projects that are proposed by business leaders and broadband providers to address the identified needs. Top rated projects in each county will be included within the final plan complete with associated budgets required to implement each project. ETCOG has secured the services of TDC2, a Dallas based agency providing drafting and engineering services for the telecommunications community to support this initiative. The company will provide full broadband planning and support services for each project included within the final strategic plan. After the strategic plan is completed, each individual project within the plan will begin construction as soon as funding is secured.
For more information, contact David Cleveland at (903) 218-6423 or David.Cleveland@etcog.org.