Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples today announced Texas will receive $2.5 million in grant funds from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to map the state of Texas for comprehensive broadband coverage through an initiative called Connected Texas. Another $500,000 award will fund broadband planning activities. To date, Texas has received the largest of the 51 grants awarded to states and territories.

“These grant dollars are an investment in the future of Texas,” Commissioner Staples said. “The fact that Texas is receiving the largest share of grant funds indicates the critical need in the Lone Star State. Many communities do not have sufficient broadband service, which limits their abilities to attract new economic development opportunities. It is essential families, schools and businesses have high-speed Internet access that will open up the prospects for development.”

The Connected Texas initiative will create a comprehensive broadband map for Texas and provide data on broadband availability, technology, speed and infrastructure. The map will be used to help develop the infrastructure necessary to allow high-speed Internet companies to increase their service capacity to consumers across Texas.

According to Connected Nation, the company selected to measure and map the availability and use of broadband in Texas, full broadband distribution in Texas is expected to create or retain more than 170,000 jobs and result in an additional $9.4 billion in direct economic impact.

Last summer, Gov. Rick Perry designated the Texas Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Public Safety Commission, as the lead agency in coordinating broadband expansion activities funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“I have seen firsthand how renewable energy has created jobs for rural Texans and I am certain increased broadband availability made possible through this program will do the same,” said Commissioner Donna Nelson of the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

The completion of the initial phase of broadband mapping for Texas is expected by spring 2010.