The Texas Broadband Development Office (BDO) concluded its statutory application challenge process for the Bringing Online Opportunities to Texas (BOOT) program. For each of the 297 challenges submitted, BDO staff evaluated the reasoning and evidence provided to determine its strength.
Most application challenges concerned area eligibility due to the existence of federal funding, namely Rural Digital Opportunity Funds. The BDO verified the challenges against its federal funding data set and determined that many applications proposed ineligible project areas. Because the BDO is prohibited from awarding funds to designated areas that are subject to an existing federal commitment for the deployment of qualifying broadband, the BDO is required to remove locations within affected designated areas from any application. Consequently, many applications no longer contained a contiguous project area. As provided by Section 6.1 of the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), the BDO amended the NOFA to remove the contiguous area requirement as an alternative to removing applications from consideration.
Affected applicants can amend their application by either removing areas that have received previous federal funding or withdrawing their application from consideration if the newly scoped project is not feasible.
Moreover, the BDO identified six application challenges that found ineligible areas. These affected applicants also will have the opportunity to remove these areas during the challenge amendment process.
After the evaluation process is complete, the BDO will review overlapping applications. Per program rules, the BDO will provide notice to each applicant of the removal of overlapping areas from the application.
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Broadband service is defined (Gov't Code § 490I.0101) as Internet service that delivers transmission speeds capable of providing a minimum download or upload threshold speed that are the greater of either:
A census block, which is the smallest geographic area for which the U.S. Bureau of the Census collects and tabulates decennial census data.
An internet service provider engaged in business intended for profit including a telephone cooperative, an electric cooperative, or an electric utility, that offers last-mile or middle-mile broadband service for a fare, fee, rate, charge, or other consideration.
Political subdivision means a county, municipality, school district, junior college district, other special district, or other subdivision of state government Local Gov't Code § 140.008(a)(2). The term does not include a special purpose district Gov't Code § 403.0241(b).