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Burnet County endorses grant pursuit by broadband infrastructure firm

FiberLight Public Sector Vice President Mike Ellison

At the Burnet County Commissioners Court meeting Sept. 27, FiberLight Public Sector Vice President Mike Ellison (at podium) shared his company’s plans to file for a federal grant that would allow it to build out over a hundred miles of fiber-optic cable in Burnet County. Connected Burnet County President Herb Krasner (right) facilitated FiberLight’s pursuit of the grant and the commissioners' endorsement of the project. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Burnet County Commissioners Court presented a letter of endorsement to fiber-optic infrastructure firm FiberLight, supporting the company’s pursuit of a federal grant that would fund the building of 128 miles of broadband cable in Burnet County. FiberLight representatives fielded questions from the commissioners after a presentation from Connected Burnet County during their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27.

FiberLight is submitting a grant application with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Friday, Sept. 30, in the hopes of receiving a portion of the $1 billion  Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. The money would be used to add to FiberLight’s existing fiber-optic cable network in Burnet County. The company installed roughly 95 miles of cable across the county in 2015. The grant would fund 128 more miles.

The letter of endorsement from the Commissioners Court and the existing fiber-optic infrastructure will play in favor of FiberLight’s grant application. The grant award selection date is Feb. 16, 2023, and the winners will be announced March 1. If FiberLight is awarded the grant, it will have five years to complete the project.

Connected Burnet County President Herb Krasner facilitated FiberLight’s pursuit of the grant, seeking to fulfill his organization’s overall mission of providing high-speed internet access to all of Burnet County. 

Burnet County broadband infrastructure plan
A slide from Connected Burnet County President Herb Krasner’s presentation to the Burnet County Commissioners Court depicts the planned broadband infrastructure improvements being proposed by his organization and FiberLight. Courtesy image

Krasner first presented his intentions to commissioners on June 30, showing the dismal availability of internet across the county and proposing the pursuit of government grants to install internet infrastructure. 

High-speed internet, or broadband, is roughly defined as 100 megabits per second (Mbps). The proposed FiberLight project would provide the “middle mile” in broadband infrastructure for Burnet County. Middle mile refers to the major cable network that would be laid throughout the county, not necessarily the cable that would lead to homes. The intricate boots-on-the ground access to homes and businesses is referred to as the “last mile,” which would be a separate project altogether.

Burnet County is not receiving or providing any funds for this project. FiberLight is totally responsible for the grant application and completing the project.

“What has really prevented affordable access and equal access has been providers like us,” said FiberLight Public Sector Vice President Mike Ellison. “We want to enable communities and build out but, ultimately, want returns on investment. With this initiative, it’s going to change the whole landscape.”

Ellison explained that without the NTIA grant, this project would not be cost effective, which prevented broadband infrastructure improvements in recent years.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley recalled the troubles with internet access during the COVID-19 pandemic when children had to attend school from home.

“I’ll never forget seeing the school bus drive around being a remote hotspot,” he said.

1 thought on “Burnet County endorses grant pursuit by broadband infrastructure firm

  1. A few comments on this potential boondoggle.

    1. The Burnet County map shows huge “gaps” in the coverage of broadband access. There is a very valid reason for those “gaps”. I believe Mr. Krasner lives in one of those “gaps”. It is a gap because it fails normal telecom business models. There are not enough potential subscribers to make a build-out pay off. I suppose the cows, goats, sheep, coyotes and feral hogs are in for a treat though if funding is approved. The maps of all counties shown with more coverage than Burnet County are misleading.

    2. The last mile is the deal breaker most of the time. The middle mile means either expensive trenching through Hill Country rock or hanging it on existing power line poles. Guess who owns the power poles? There is a pole attachment fee that is assessed on every single pole that fiber cable is hanging on. The build-out to actually deliver fiber to a house is very expensive and most business models fail in returning a profit on the investment made by the fiber/wireless providers.

    3. Broadband does not start at 100Mbps. 25Mbps on up is considered broadband and allows for ample bandwidth for the vast majority of residential applications. There are very few businesses located in the gaps which are normally your larger bandwidth users. Fiber is the way to go but even with what you can vaguely see on their map, this will service only a small percentage of Burnet County. Wireless, line-of-sight broadband will have to play a major roll in providing the coverage they are claiming. This means more of the beautiful towers going up somewhere to get that “last mile”.

    4. I would like to see how this fiber build-out addresses school children’s needs instead of old, retired bloggers, social media yahoos and grown men & women posting up worthless pictures of themselves and sunsets. If the overall mission of Krasner’s group is to provide high-speed internet access to ALL of Burnet County it will fail miserably. However, I would bet that Mr. Krasner’s neighborhood is at the front of the line when and if any fiber is hung on a pole.

    5. Guess who profits from pole attachment fees. Guess who the rubber stamper is on the PEC Board of Directors.

    6. Cell tower back-haul build-outs have done more to expand the fiber footprint than anything or anybody in rural areas. Where there is a cell tower you can just about guarantee that some carrier already has fiber to that site. Fiber expansion is justified by the number of “passings” or potential customers. A good number of these potential customers already have either satellite broadband or line-of-sight wireless internet. These options are much more readily available and profitable for the internet providers.

    These are just a few of the concerns we should have and a few of the questions that need answering. Some people are just fine with our government placing the $1 Billion NTIA bill on the backs of Americans who already have internet access. Not me. When I moved 13 miles out of Burnet I knew in advance that I would have to accept what options in the way of broadband internet access would be available and internet access is limited out here. However, I live within my means and don’t expect anyone to have to pay for any of my pursuits or dreams. I know we have a large number of Biden Believers who are fine with an administration that keeps spending $$$$ we don’t have.

    Let’s see the number of school children this proposal will provide internet to that don’t have anything at all today. They are our future.

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