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Organizations pushing for broadband plan in East Texas


POSTED: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 5:31pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 - 6:22pm

Three organizations are joining forces to develop a regional broadband plan for all 23 counties in East Texas, especially in the rural areas.

The East Texas and Ark-Tex Council of Governments along with Connected Texas and the Texas Department of Agriculture are taking a grass roots approach to this plan.

They're holding seven meetings in the East Texas area to get local businesses and community leaders involved in their broadband plan.

Connected Texas is a non-profit organization that conducts research and mapping of broadband coverage.

The objective of these meetings is to share their strategy to each individual county. They invited stake holders, telecom service providers and local leaders and volunteers. From there, they want to form local teams, that will be trained by Connected Texas. When they have the county pieces in place, they will be able to gradually pursue grant funds in private sectors and ultimately create a regional plan.

"We really need these rural areas to get together and work together and strengthen, so we can be competitive for businesses and deliver more efficiently in future," said East Texas Council of Governments Executive Director David Cleveland.

The lack of broadband internet access in our area significantly impacts the bottom line for East Texas businesses every year.

"We're not like Dallas or Houston where there are multiple choices for broadband service where you know you have free market competition that usually pushes the cost lower. In East Texas, that's just not the case. We have really good companies in the region, but in the infrastructure, there are gaps in our service ability and gaps in the actual network itself," said Cleveland.

In 2010, the East Texas Council of Governments applied for a $35-million federal grant, to bring faster internet services to our area. But, it wasn't approved. Now, they're taking a grassroots approach.

"We're going county by county and we're looking for community champions, leaders, stake holders, that would benefit from increased broadband capacity in our region," said Cleveland.

They said taking this grassroots approach will ensure everyone in the community has a say and is able to take part in the broadband plan.

"We feel like we can be a model for the nation how to provide most cost effective private-public partnership, the kind of broadband services to enable a 21st century economy," said Community Technology Advisor for Connected Texas Ron Turner.

By providing faster internet services to our area, both Cleveland and Turner said it'll create a more robust business environment for East Texas.

"Putting together not just a network of technology but a network of people as well," said Turner.

Link to the meetings:

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