The Economic Development Administration approved the Deep East Texas Council of Government’s grant application for broadband network design.
It will provide $600,000 and cover broadband design for the seven counties declared a disaster area during Hurricane Harvey — San Augustine, Newton, Jasper, Sabine, Tyler, Polk and San Jacinto counties. Those areas have all agreed to a local match of 20%, which totals about $150,000, Lonnie Hunt, DETCOG’s executive director, said.
“The only reason this grant is just for those seven counties is the pot of money coming from the EDA is designed for an allocation to Hurricane Harvey,” Hunt said. “It can only be used in those counties.”
The award has not been officially announced but they do have other documentation to show that these funds will be given to the region, he said.
This project will not build the infrastructure needed for broadband, but map where it should go, Hunt said.
“I don’t know how many steps it will take to get to where we can say everyone in East Texas has access to broadband,” he said. “It may be 10 steps, it may be 20, it may be 40 steps before we can say that. But it’s important that we have a plan that has a logical progression.”
They have five remaining counties, including Angelina County, where they are still looking for funding to cover the cost of design for a broadband network. Because Lufkin and Huntington already have broadband and Lufkin has the population it has, it restricts the types of funding DETCOG can apply for, for the area, Hunt said.
“We are actively pursuing funds for those five counties,” he said.
“We’ve approached this, that we didn’t want to pick and choose and some people end up with something and some others not. It’s going to be impossible to flip a switch one day and light up all 12 counties. So whatever we do, has got to be done in phases and steps.”
They’re focused on moving forward and will remain so until they have built broadband across the region and closed the gaps in service, he said.
They do have other grant applications waiting for approval for San Jacinto and Newton counties. They were also made aware of additional funding for flooding in 2018 and 2019 for Polk and Houston counties, he said.
He said any organizations interested in pursuing an EDA grant should reach out to DETCOG leadership for assistance.