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.
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.
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.