Published by Tyler Morning Telegraph on April 21st, 2019
By Erin Mansfield
This is part five of a five-part series about how a lack of connectivity affects East Texans.
Part 1: East Texas lags the rest of the state in broadband
Part 2: Rural libraries fill the broadband void
Part 3: Some East Texans say broadband is too slow and too expensive
Part 4: How a federal grant helped
Part 5: A decade of work has gone into broadband grant seeking.
KILGORE — Forty people from internet service companies and local governments crowded a conference room for an announcement that a regional agency had received a $375,000 federal grant for rural broadband.
“I feel excited to be here today finally,” David Cleveland, the executive director of the East Texas Council of Governments, said Wednesday. He fought back tears as he described the path the agency took to receive federal funding.
Cleveland’s announcement followed a decade of unsuccessful attempts by the agency to secure funding for rural broadband in its 14 counties: Smith, Gregg, Upshur, Camp, Harrison, Marion, Panola, Rusk, Van Zandt, Rains, Wood, Henderson, Anderson and Cherokee.
“It’s a major issue in East Texas,” Lindsay Vanderbilt, the communications director for the East Texas agency, said in an interview about the lack of broadband. “It affects the economic development in the area.
“Without stronger connectivity, we believe that that affects our region, and the types of businesses and development that can occur,” Vanderbilt said. “So it’s something that our board has agreed that it would be a major benefit to East Texas if we were to have stronger connectivity available.
“We’ve kind of helped with the charge of researching and fund-seeking and we have found that the broadband funding that’s out there really wants you to come with a strong plan, how to accomplish it,” she said.
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