LANCASTER – The March 12 meeting of the Lancaster City Council will involve a vote on a proposal aimed at ensuring that high-speed internet, or broadband, is accessible to every resident in the city.
Two hundred thirty-eight households in Lancaster do not have access to the internet. Broadband access is crucial for students, infrastructure, economic development, remote work, etc.
At the recent city council meeting, staff proposed working with Spectrum to make high-speed access to all a reality.
Lancaster City Manager Opal Mauldin-Jones said Spectrum already has an infrastructure in Lancaster, making the service an add-on choice for most resident internet users.
Mauldin-Jones pointed out that making broadband (high-speed internet) accessible to all residents has been part of the city council’s goals and objectives for some time, using American Rescue Act funds, which were earmarked to provide funding to local governments to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency. As established by the U.S. Department of Treasury guidance, the state, through the Texas Department of Emergency Management (TDEM), distributed two separate payments to eligible non-entitlement units of local government, meaning local governments that typically service populations under 50,000.
Last year, Spectrum presented to the Lancaster City Council; however, at that time, there was still the possibility Dallas County might be stepping in to help.
In November 2021, staff received a notice from the Dallas County Administrator that the county was expanding its study to outline a path for broadband connectivity. In January, the city received notification that Dallas County was negotiating a contract with a possible vendor to conduct a county-wide study. The finding was presented in October 2022 with Dallas County identifying the broadband-related gaps in the county to develop strategies for the gaps.
However, moving into 2024, the city has decided to no longer wait on Dallas County. Instead, they are taking matters into their own hands and create what is needed to ensure all residents can access high-speed internet.
According to staff, the project proposed with Spectrum can be completed within seven to eight months. This timeline was also pointed out on the emphasis of the city’s rooftops expanding with a working high-speed internet for all.
District 2 Stanley Jaglowski pointed out, “If I remember correctly, the infrastructure [with Spetrum] is in place, and there are certain key spots around the city, it is just a matter of connecting and expanding it all?”
He added, “So what is offered is a level of service for the residents if they opt-in, and then some of the challenged households, there are some programs there for them to benefit as well.”
Original discussions began on high-speed internet for all residents in August 2021, followed by talks in October 2021 and August 2022.
Lancaster has allocated $2,801,595.00 of ARPA funding to improve the community’s broadband (high-speed internet).
The city also explored in January 2021 an option from Connected Nation of Texas regarding broadband. At the time, the city was not eligible for government funding due to meeting the minimum state-required internet speed of 25MB down and 3MB up.
With time running out to accomplish this goal, Jaglowski stated, “Time is ticking,” the council all gave a nod to returning with an agreement to work with Spectrum and further discussion in March.