Mickey Slimp, broadband initiative project manager, arrived in town at the behest of DETCOG (Deep East Texas Council of Governments), with an eye towards finding and eradicating dead spots. As KSLA-12 News reports, maps of the region show wide swathes of unserved and underserved territory. Starting with Tehana in East Texas, the broadband posse reckons to ride the local roads to identify areas that need broadband help.
“It is top priority now and that’s a real nice change that we’ve seen over the last six months,” said Slimp.
Slimp is working with a three to five year timeline as established by DETCOG, though he figures improvements could start taking place sooner. DETCOG’s opening bid grant request is for $150 million. “Will we get those? Probably not,” Slimp opined. “Hopefully, we will get a portion of that. I’m hoping if we have a broadband stimulus come out next year that we can pull $300 to $400-million into the region.” Slimp expects the funding to come from the state, the federal government and private resources.
In largely rural East Texas, delivering broadband across wide open spaces would be facilitated with the construction of a broadband highway stretching across twelve counties. Slimp estimates that this ambitious project will cost between $400 million and $600 million to complete.
“There are a lot of towns in East Texas that would have never had electricity without some type of intervention to take care of the initial capital expenditure,” said Slimp. There are existing towers that could be adapted to improve broadband delivery. Residents like Tehana City Secretary, Amanda Treat, have expressed their eagerness for digital connectivity, especially when pandemic concerns make online access imperative for schools and businesses. “Internet is not even available [at home],” said Treat, “So it’s definitely something this area needs.”