In an effort to ensure high-speed Internet access is available to all Texans, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has announced the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA), the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), and the Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) are supporting 32 applications seeking almost $370 million in funds from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

“Broadband access is just as important for our state today as when Texas connected our rural citizens to electricity in the 20th century,” Commissioner Staples said. “If Texas is to maintain a competitive advantage, it is essential our families, rural schools, hospitals and small businesses have high-speed access to the wide range of resources, services and products available on the information superhighway. The projects we are recommending will take our state a step closer to our goals of connecting all Texans.”

Gov. Perry designated TDA, in partnership with PUC and PSC, to lead the state’s broadband service expansion initiatives and represent the interests of Texas to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Texas evaluated 50 applications submitted to the state review process for consistency with state and federal priorities. Newly available preliminary Texas broadband inventory maps were used in the review process. A final map that will detail broadband coverage across the state is scheduled for completion on May 31.

The Texas and Texas-related projects submitted for federal funding fall into three categories: infrastructure, which includes construction of broadband delivery equipment; public computer centers, which increase public access to education and workforce development opportunities; and sustainable adoption, which is designed to educate Texans about the importance of broadband, and develop broadband markets in unserved and underserved areas.

“These applications show the desire of rural Texans to increase business and educational connections with the rest of the world,” said Commissioner Donna Nelson of the Public Utility Commission. “Completion of these projects will give thousands of Texans a better way to reach out.”

More About NTIA Grant Funding

In 2009, NTIA began accepting applications for a total of $4.7 billion broadband expansion through BTOP (all rounds totaled). In the first round of awards, NTIA awarded $2.1 billion, including approximately $80 million in projects affecting Texas. The applications TDA and PUC recommended in the first round totaled almost $700 million in federal requests.

Then in January 2010, NTIA announced the second application round for the remaining $2.6 billion. TDA, PUC and PSC are requesting NTIA thoroughly review all proposals affecting Texas to ensure maximum investment in the state.

To view the recommendations and comments submitted by TDA, PUC and PSC, visit TDA’s website at www.TexasAgriculture.gov and click on Broadband for All Texans.