Fort Bend County Commissioners Court voted to form a Broadband Steering Committee at an Aug. 2 meeting. The committee would determine funding sources available to implement widespread internet connectivity throughout the county—especially in areas that severely lack internet coverage and affordability—per plans proposed by engineering and surveying firm Cobb Fendley at a July 26 meeting.

The group would discuss funding opportunities, including grants Cobb Fendley identified during its feasibility study in the first half of the year. Funding would support the construction of an underground network pathway of larger fiber-optic cables, or a "middle mile," to serve as the backbone of network traffic in the county.

The goal of the middle mile, said Melissa Beaudry, a project manager for the firm, is to incentivize and decrease the cost of providers to build out the “last mile,” which would connect the main network to homes or businesses that are unserved or underserved.

The sum of construction is estimated at $36.76 million for materials and labor. The county would provide a 30% match, totaling just over $11 million.

Each member of the court, including all four commissioners and County Judge KP George, appointed a designee for the Fort Bend County Broadband Steering Committee. Those appointments are as follows:

The county attorney made clear this group would form recommendations to give to the information technology department, which would bring findings to court for a final vote.

Some of the grant opportunities discussed at the presentation for broadband feasibility included federal and state funding through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and The American Rescue Plan Act.

Meanwhile, as IT Director Robyn Doughtie said at the July 26 meeting, the committee would work to identify additional funding sources that could help with the 30% match the county would be required to dedicate if grants were secured. The committee would also begin the process of applications for these opportunities, Doughtie said.