May 2, 2022

Public Statement on House Interim Charges (88th Legislative Session)

The Honorable Will Metcalf P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

RE: Public Statement on House Interim Charges (88th Legislative Session)

Greetings Chairman Metcalf:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a written statement regarding the House Interim Charges related to HB 5 before the House State Affairs Committee today, April 26, 2022. At this time, our company would like to provide the following public comments regarding the interim charges before the committee.

We are thankful that the 87th State Legislature approved HB 5 and are excited to see the implementation of the Broadband Development Office (BDO). With parallel passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and active policy developments at the federal and state levels, we look forward to future public meetings and opportunities for engagement to learn more about the BDO, its operations and major updates including availability of the State’s initial Broadband Plan, Broadband Map, upcoming solicitation for U.S. Treasury Capital Project Fund proposals, implementation of NTIA block grant funding and 5-year planning for the Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

The BDO’s current Broadband Listening Tour has been a great opportunity for Lit Communities to share its perspectives on exploring broadband solutions through our Community Assessment process as well as a private partner for Fiber to the Premise deployment. We hope that the Listening Tour has provided validation that challenges exist in unserved and underserved areas in both rural and urban communities throughout the State. Regarding the development of the State’s Broadband Development Map, we are excited to see how the map will illustrate and designate eligible areas and how it will be used in conjunction with the upcoming release of the FCC’s Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric mapping data. We hope that the combination of these resources will create a streamlined approach for not only identifying eligible unserved and underserved areas with greater accuracy and confidence but also minimize unnecessary challenges from incumbent providers which would inadvertently result in a burden to the State and delay the deployment of funding. In terms of leveraging data from the State’s Broadband Map, we believe it will be very helpful for avoiding duplication of funding from the Economic Development Administration, US Department of Agriculture and Federal Communications Commission (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund). We are also encouraged to learn that the BDO is supportive of adopting a higher broadband speed threshold of 100/100 Mbps symmetrical. In terms of closing the Digital Divide, 100/100 is a great minimum threshold to support deployment in unserved and underserved communities and should be scalable for gigabit speeds for higher thresholds as technology advances.

With respect to the State’s initial Broadband Plan, we are excited to see the report, findings, and recommendations regarding broadband development throughout the State. Given the BEAD funding’s long-range planning requirements, we are optimistic that the initial plan will serve as an excellent baseline for data that we have today as well as additional information that we will have in the coming months from the FCC. We are also looking forward to learning what the State Broadband Plan will include with respect to state and regional approaches to broadband development, such as the Middle Mile deployment efforts being undertaken by the Lower Colorado River Authority. We believe that regional and multi-county approaches can serve as best practices and provide significant cost- effectiveness and allow for greater flexibility in the broadband solutions included and funded by the State. Lastly, given the long-term need to address workforce development and supply chain challenges, we hope that the BDO includes an overview of baseline needs and potential actions to address these issues. There is no doubt that the deployment of funding for broadband infrastructure will create a lasting impact on our State, however we cannot lose sight of the tremendous opportunity we have as a State to create jobs and build capacity to support these assets and investments.

In conclusion, we are thankful for the Texas Legislature, Comptroller of Public Accounts and State Broadband Development Office’s coordinated work to implement the HB 5 legislation, which will be an essential element of the State’s ability and capacity to implement the future BEAD funding and strategically curtail the digital divide. We appreciate the Committee’s consideration of these suggestions and are available to answer any questions you may have.

Sincerely, Rene Gonzalez

Chief Strategy Officer
Lit Communities Broadband, Inc.