County internet study approved | News

The Coryell County Commissioners Court approved participation in a broadband internet evaluation by the Foresight Group despite reservations about the $249,280 price tag.

The study is expected to help determine the county’s internet needs and could also help the county obtain grant funding to help fill the gaps when it comes to technology.

The commissioners court approved the contract with Commissioner Ray Ashby voting against the measure.

“I’m not against broadband, I’m just against spending that much for the study,” Ashby said.

Commissioner Kyle Matthews had also voiced concerns about the cost, and the extent to which the county might be expected to provide the information for the study.

“That’s a lot of information they’re requesting, and I feel if they’re doing the study, they’re the ones who need to gather the information,” Matthews said.

Lee Comer, a representative of the Foresight Group, said if the county had the information, “we’d love to have access to it. Otherwise, if you could make some introduction to those who have the data, we can get that data.”

County Judge Roger Miller said in order to be eligible for grants to enhance local internet service, the study is an important part of the process.

“There is federal funding available,” Miller said. “we’re not going to be able to get a lot of what’s available without having gone through this process. It’s beneficial to our citizens and our county, and we’ve discussed internet concerns for years.”

The price tag is an issue for Matthews, he said.

“My concern is that it’s a lot of money,” Matthews said. “We’ve done these studies before and nothing happened. I don’t want a situation where two years from now we’re still in the same situation because the company that’s been grandfathered in (to provide service) to the Gatesville area doesn’t want to upgrade. My concern is the cost and the buy-in from other entities.”

Commissioner Daren Moore said he believes upgrading local internet service is important.

“I think this is essential to business – even a very small business,” he said. “It all focuses on access to broadband. We’re really being left behind if we don’t do something. If it costs twice as much and gets something done, it’s still a good investment. This is essential, or businesses will go elsewhere. It’s also important for distance learning. We want to keep the businesses we have without them going somewhere else (because of broadband internet limitations).”

Matthews said he agreed, and noted smaller communities such as Evant, Jonesboro, and Oglesby have all been able to upgrade internet speeds because of grants and decisions by companies serving them.

“The company that’s here (in Gatesville) has the ability to do that and it’s not doing it,” he said.

Miller said he has talked to some local superintendents, including for the Jonesboro and Gatesville school districts, as well as Copperas Cove, and each has said they have some students who do not have internet access at home.

“To me there are three areas – with businesses, education and emergency services,” Miller said. “We’re not going to entice growth or even keep what we have without connectivity. I believe a lot of the funding – and this is strictly my opinion – will focus on bringing high-speed broadband to rural and underserved areas.

“I am pretty sure if you’re in downtown Dallas, you have access to high-speed internet. The need for a student in Dallas to have that internet access is no greater than the need of a student in Coryell County.”

Miller said he also believes emergency services will focus more on the internet.

“It’s huge for a rural area to be able to provide that,” he said. “This gives us the foundation to build on. The county has dedicated $2.5 million in (American Recovery Plan Act) funds for broadband and internet. Those previous studies had no funding mechanism for implementation, and now we do.

“I see this as a very unique opportunity, and in truth, it’s not a direct cost to our taxpayers.”

County internet study approved


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