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Residents asked to help verify broadband need

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By Chris Edwards
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LUFKIN – Residents within the Deep East Texas region are being asked to help verify a broadband availability map released recently by the FCC.

According to a news release from the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), the map which can be viewed or downloaded at https://broadbandmap.ffc.gov/home, was designed with information available from regional internet service providers.

The federal government released the map showing what it believes is the type and speeds of internet service in the region, according to Mickey Slimp, who serves as DETCOG’s Broadband Project Manager.

“Rural leaders from throughout Texas have voiced concerns that the map exaggerates the actual service that is available,” Slimp said.

The process for individual households as well as communities in the region to challenge the map data can be found through the state’s Broadband Development Office, which was established in the last legislative session, as the process for providing reliable broadband, statewide, has been a priority item to the state legislature, as well as the regional COG.

The Broadband Office, which can be accessed online through: https://comptroller.texas.gov/programs/broadband/communities/maps/fcc, contains the information for challenges to the data to be filed.

Challenges can be based on several criteria, according to Slimp, including facts that providers have denied requests for service or demanded excessive connection fees. The deadline to submit a challenge is Jan. 13, 2023.

“More than $40 billion from the federal government will soon be sent to states to expand internet,” Slimp said, stressing the importance of the map’s findings. The FCC map will determine how that money is allocated among the states, with funding based on the number of unconnected homes on the map.

DETCOG has made broadband access its primary goal in recent years, and in a news release, stated that it will help ensure that Texas receives its fair share of the $40 billion, which is part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package. Biden announced in.

May that about 40% of the U.S. population is eligible for free internet, under a program dubbed the Affordable Connectivity Program, which was part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law passage.

“If only one percent of [the FCC’s map] is inaccurate, 100,000 or more Texas homes could remain unserved,” Slimp said, and added that the problem is thought to be greater in rural areas, where the map inaccuracies could be as high as 25%. In Deep East Texas, that could equate to in excess of 31,000 homes.

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