NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Could there be an answer on broadband funding for Deep East Texas by the end of the week? Possibly.
Lonnie Hunt, the executive director for the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), said in today’s Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce Stakeholders conference call that an answer on one grant application may be coming very soon. The other may take a couple of months.
DETCOG’s broadband initiative to expand internet access in rural and underserved areas of the Piney Woods began in 2018. Executive director Lonnie Hunt described it initially as a scary project. Today it’s one of certainty.
“It’s very, very doable,” Hunt said. “And the more I learn, the more I’m convinced that it can be done and it must be done here in Deep East Texas.”
Hunt is anxiously awaiting news on two major grants totaling $109 million to fund the project’s Phase one.
There’s a request specifically for Newton County when funding surfaced after flooding in 2016.
Another is for DETCOG’S 12-county region from Hurricane Harvey recovery funds.
“We think we are going to hear something on that Newton County application possibly by the end of this week. For the Harvey, the bigger program which goes into all 12 counties, they got a lot of applications, a lot of things to review. Probably, at least a couple of months down the road on the big one.”
Both grant requests target low-income households.
“The beauty of it is we’ll still be able to serve a lot of other people, and it would give us a framework where we can eventually reach our dream of having service for the entire region,” Hunt said. “Every household. Every business.”
Hunt is pleased the state legislature has placed broadband as a priority, and the bills are carried by East Texas legislators Representative Trent Ashby and Senator Robert Nichols. Even so, Hunt doesn’t want to be held back.
" Because we are way ahead of the rest of the state right now as for as the planning that we’ve already done,” Hunt said. “And we can’t afford to be derailed and sidetracked for a couple of years while the rest of the state tries to get a plan together.”