The City of Amarillo has always made a big impression.
Maybe you know it from the classic country song. Or you’ve seen pictures of Cadillac Ranch, where 10 enormous cars are buried nose down in the Texas Panhandle dirt as a public art display.
What you might not know is that Amarillo has a reputation of opening its doors to refugees from across the world. Scores of languages are spoken in and around the city, making it a culturally rich urban area. Or that Amarillo is on the cutting edge of bridging the digital divide.
Working with AT&T to deploy a state-of-the-art fiber network, Amarillo’s recently launched $24 million project is one of the first large-scale public-private partnerships for broadband in Texas. Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson calls it “one of the more significant technological infrastructure advancements in city history.” With Amarillo contributing $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, the project will bring reliable, high-speed internet to more than 22,000 locations throughout the city.
Once complete, the new network will provide blazing speeds of 5 gigabits per second for downloads and uploads. That will provide residents and businesses with plenty of bandwidth to work from home, pursue a degree, take advantage of telemedicine applications, stream video, and play online games – simultaneously.
Mayor Nelson says using ARPA dollars to subsidize the project will pay dividends for the community for years to come.
“Access to the internet and educational opportunities are vital for all of us,” Mayor Nelson noted. “Amarillo is taking the lead in ensuring all its residents have access to the world wide web and its countless uses – from education to workforce development to health care and more.”
Amarillo provides a great example for other local governments looking to fund broadband expansion through public-private partnerships. There are several federal funding options available. Federal legislation including ARPA and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) created the State & Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF), the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) and the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program. They all differ in execution but can be used to achieve the same objective – to connect as many people as possible.
Cities need to understand the specific requirements of each funding mechanism to determine the right approach to close the digital divide in their communities.
For example, a large portion of SLFRF funding was directly distributed to cities and counties and can be utilized now to bring broadband into more neighborhoods. CPF funding is becoming available through state broadband programs. Depending on the state, cities and counties may be able to collaborate with service providers that are submitting applications for state broadband programs to receive a portion of these dollars. IIJA BEAD funds are expected to be available in 2023 or 2024 to help states connect the unserved and underserved communities. BEAD also has additional requirements and policies that may limit where funding may be used and should be taken into consideration.
Deploying networks is no simple task nor a one-size-fits-all endeavor. No matter which funding source a municipality chooses, working with a proven provider helps ensure the expertise, scale, and long-term collaboration that’s essential to meeting the high-speed internet needs of today and tomorrow. AT&T has the capability to deliver new fiber connections in a matter of months and operate and upgrade fiber networks for decades.
When it comes to connectivity, we know from experience that communities fare better when leaders come together with the private sector. So, as you make plans for your communities, know that AT&T is here to help and in it for the long haul.
If you are attending NLC’s upcoming City Summit in Kansas City, stop by AT&T’s Solution Session on Thursday, November 17 from 11:00 – 11:45 AM to learn more about “Moving Fast on Broadband Expansion in Your City.”
About the Author:
Steve Hahn, President, AT&T Central States.