Published by Tyler Morning Telegraph on April 13th, 2019
By Erin Mansfield
This is part four 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.
RAINS COUNTY — A series of white posts with orange caps are leaning against the fences on farms here every few hundred feet.
They’re on the side of U.S. Highway 69 between Alba and Emory, and Texas Highway 19 between Emory and Canton, and run along many other rural roads in northeast Texas.
These markers identify fiber-optic cables buried deep in the ground. They’re part of a $36 million network that a local telecommunications company started building almost a decade ago.
Fiber-optic cables are long, very thin strands of glass that use light to transfer data quickly. The technology can deliver the fastest broadband speeds available when run directly to a home or business.
As part of a stimulus package passed to combat the Great Recession, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded a grant to Peoples Telephone Cooperative Inc. to lay 659 miles of fiber throughout 13 counties in northeast Texas.
The new technology network would be called the East Texas Medical and Educational Fiber-Optic Network, tripling the existing 221 miles of fiber-optic cable in Camp, Delta, Fannin, Franklin, Hopkins, Hunt, Lamar, Rains, Red River, Smith, Titus, Van Zandt and Wood counties.
The goal was to add direct connections for 50 schools, 107 government buildings, 23 health care providers and seven community colleges, according to federal grant documents.
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