Newton County residents set to have reliable internet

The project is going to be for the northern part of Newton County and will help close to 7,000 residents.

NEWTON COUNTY, Texas — After years of struggling, the wait for reliable internet is almost over for people in parts of Newton County.

Due to a new project that is in the works, thousands of Newton County residents are set to soon have better broadband. The project is going to be for the northern part of Newton County and will help close to 7,000 people.

“Well you know the old saying is, ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ Well, the answer is one bite at a time,” Lonnie Hunt, executive director for Deep East Texas Council of Governments, said.

Hunt is overseeing the project and said it is meant to provide reliable and affordable internet. More than 3,000 county residents will have no upfront costs.

“In fact, it’s targeted specifically at low-moderate income households,” Hunt said. “It will be available to everyone in the service area, but your household qualifies under HUD’s definition of low moderate income. You will have no start up cost what so ever.”

The project will use existing towers and wireless connections, rather than running wires long distances from home to home.

“We’re going to build a 91-mile fiber loop that connects the towers and sends out the signal,” Hunt said. “Wireless gives us the ability to provide high quality service, very affordable cost, and also to be able to do it faster than if we could afford to run fiber to every home out there.”

DETCOG is currently working to provide broadband access to 11 counties in rural Texas. The state approved a $9 million grant after rejecting an initial $100 million federal grant

“This is money that congress appropriated because of Hurricane Harvey and other disasters that have affected our region over the years,” Hunt said.     

Judge Kenneth Weeks feels the project could not be more important for his county.

“Categorize it as being one of the most valuable things to been considered for Newton County, probably in the history of Newton County,” Judge Weeks said. “Will change our tax base from a home owners to an industrial tax base, because this is not the only thing that will come to Newton County.”

The project is in the early phases now , but the goal is to finish by 2023. Once completed, companies will bid on the rights to operate the system.

Hunt hopes this project will be a prototype for broadband counties in the 10 other counties in deep east Texas.

“What we’re about to start doing in Newton County is the first bite of what we hope is soon to be hopefully consuming this entire elephant,” Hunt said.

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