Comptroller’s office establishes Broadband Development Office
A new state Broadband Development Office (BDO) has been formed within the Texas Comptroller’s office to award grants, low-interest loans, and other financial assistance to further the expansion of broadband service in underserved areas in Texas.
The office, established by HB 5 during the recently gaveled regular session of the 87th Legislature, also will:
- Create a broadband map indicating areas eligible for financial assistance.
- Set an effective threshold speed for broadband service in those underserved areas at 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 3 Mbps upload.
- Create and update a state broadband plan.
- Engage in outreach to communities regarding the expansion and adoption of broadband service and the programs administered by the BDO.
- Serve as the state’s subject matter expert for federal funding to help local governments.
In December 2020, a broadband advocacy group, estimated that 316,717 Texas households were “unserved” by 25/3 Mbps broadband, about 89 percent of them in rural areas.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced Greg Conte will serve as the BDO’s founding director. Conte has worked at the Texas Comptroller’s office for five years, most recently serving as manager of the Data Analysis and Transparency Division. Hegar will serve as chairman of a 10-member board of advisers that will guide the new office.
A separate, related piece of legislation created the Broadband Pole Replacement Fund, which would reimburse broadband service providers for up to 50 percent of eligible pole replacement costs in underserved areas. This program will be funded by federal money received through the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund.