According to a news release, applications will open April 3 for the Bringing Online Opportunities to Texas program. To be eligible for funding, projects must be designed to provide internet service that “reliably meets or exceeds” speeds of 100 megabits per second. Grant recipients also must offer a low-cost service option for all locations served by the project and participate in a federal broadband subsidy program, the release said.
The application will be open until May 6, according to Hegar's office. After the application period ends, all eligible applications will be posted online for public review. Texans will have another 30 days to challenge the eligibility of the posted projects before the Broadband Development Office makes the final award decisions.
This is the first round of a competitive grant process. According to the news release, the federal government allocated over $368 million in coronavirus pandemic funds “to carry out critical infrastructure projects related to expanding access to high-speed internet.” The rest of the funding will be distributed in later rounds.
The BDO was established in 2021 following the passage of House Bill 5. The office was tasked with creating a statewide broadband development plan; publishing a map highlighting areas in Texas that are eligible for broadband expansion; engaging in community outreach about broadband service and digital connectivity; and more.
The Texas Broadband Development Map is available here. The map shows areas that are served, underserved and unserved for broadband access by census blocks, legislative districts and more. Applications for the BOOT program must impact underserved and unserved communities.
“This is an important step that my agency is taking to fulfill our legislative directive to connect every Texan to broadband service,” Hegar said in the news release. “Nearly 7 million Texans don’t have access to broadband services. That’s 7 million Texans who can’t access job postings, telemedicine appointments, work or educational opportunities from home. This grant process is a big start in bridging that digital divide.”