New TX broadband map ID’s funding opportunities
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced the release of the new interactive Texas Broadband Development Map, which illustrates the state of digital connectivity in the state and identifies areas eligible for funding.
Texas’ map will be used to determine the allocation of more than $500 million in federal money from the Capital Projects Fund for broadband expansion projects in the state. That’s the plan at least initially. This is unlike the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Map, which will be used to decide the allocation of federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment Program funding to states.
Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, $500.5 million was allocated to the state and appropriated by the Texas Legislature to the Broadband Development Office, which is administered by the Texas Comptroller’s office. The map below will help decide where those dollars will be distributed in an effort to close the state’s digital divide.
Locations throughout the state shown in red are considered “unserved.” This means Texans at those locations do not have access to broadband internet, which is currently classified by the FCC as download speeds of at least 25 megabits-per-second and upload speeds of at least 3 megabits-per-second—the FCC has proposed raising the minimum speeds. The map also allows users to toggle layers, one being an eligibility layer that displays which census blocks may be eligible for CPF dollars from the state.
Comptroller Hegar acknowledges there may be flaws in the map. He cautions that the speed data internet service providers submitted to Texas — reflected in this initial version of the map — may not be completely accurate due to inconsistencies between advertised speeds and actual speeds. The state, however, is committed to updating the map biannually and is asking stakeholders to be proactive in identifying discrepancies between broadband speeds reflected in the Texas map versus on-the-ground speeds as experienced by communities.
The Broadband Development Office’s director Greg Conte acknowledges that the Texas map may eventually be used to determine eligibility for the distribution of federal BEAD funds once the final allocation to Texas is determined in June. However, any unserved location shown on the Texas map must also be shown as unserved on the FCC map to be eligible for BEAD funds. Because of this, the BDO is focused on bringing the Texas and FCC maps into alignment.
Comptroller Hegar strongly encourages Texans to continue to submit broadband availability challenges to the FCC map even though the deadline passed on Jan. 13, 2023. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, any new availability challenge submitted after the deadline will be less likely to impact the final Texas BEAD allocation amount. It will, however, help ensure that the federal map accurately reflects broadband availability in Texas and thus areas of the state eligible to receive BEAD dollars for broadband expansion projects.
For more on the state of digital connectivity in Texas, check out how we look at broadband access through our Strategic Framework.