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Texas Launches Broadband Office to Guide Expansion

This week, the Texas comptroller announced the creation of a Broadband Development Office, which will help the state in its effort to bring broadband access to unserved and underserved areas.

Technician installing new antennas on a utility pole.
Shutterstock/Jan Hrezik
On Aug. 2, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced the creation of a Broadband Development Office (BDO), which will award grants and loans and provide other incentives in the interest of expanding access to broadband in underserved areas.

Nationwide, efforts to expand broadband networks are gaining ground. The state of Texas has been looking to change its approach, and the creation of this office is one of the key components that has been in discussion for months.

House Bill 5 passed on June 15, 2021, and ultimately established the creation of the office, which will be tasked with numerous broadband-related efforts like creating a statewide broadband plan, to be updated annually.

The BDO will also be responsible for creating a broadband map that reveals which areas are eligible for financial support, setting an established threshold speed for underserved areas, participating in community outreach and acting as the subject matter expert to support local governments with funding opportunities.

“Broadband is a necessity for the 21st century, and all Texans, no matter their zip code, can benefit from the creation of this new office,” said HB 5’s sponsor Rep. Trent Ashby, R-57, in the announcement.

The first BDO director will be Greg Conte, who has most recently served as manager of the Data Analysis and Transparency Division of the comptroller’s office. In addition to five years of experience with the state in the comptroller’s office, Conte brings a variety of public-sector experience, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Hegar will serve as the chairman of a board of 10 advisers for the office.

The BDO builds on previous state broadband efforts, including the 2019 creation of the Governor’s Broadband Development Council. The council has brought attention to the need to expand these efforts, reporting in 2020 that over 900,000 Texas residents were without broadband access at home.

The announcement also notes the creation of the Broadband Pole Replacement Fund. This program, established through separate legislation and using federal funding, will serve a related purpose by offering partial reimbursement to service providers for pole replacement costs in underserved areas.