SAN ANTONIO — Texas will get connected to key funds for internet access.
This week, President Joe Biden announced Texas would be allocated $3.3 billion for internet infrastructure. Texas got the most money among any state, with California the next largest recipient with $1.8 billion.
The money to pay for infrastructure will help close the digital divide with thousands of Bexar County and San Antonio residents.
One couple who lives off Trumbo Road on the far south side says they pay more for less reliable service.
“To work on a computer is really slow,” Robert Gutierrez said. “Sometimes we don’t have any use, some days it’s just completely not working,” his fiancé Marina Bello added.
Currently the couple says they are paying over $100 a month for satellite internet and TV through Dish Network. They say the internet can cut out during inclement weather.
Bello says her mother had difficulty with telehealth video and phone calls during the pandemic, while Gutierrez had to drive to his office for a strong signal for work.
“I’ve pretty much had to drive all the way to the office to use the company Wi-Fi, I wasn’t allowed in the building but I had to get over there just so I could pick up the signal,” Gutierrez said.
The $3.3 billion is a big win for San Antonio and Bexar County according to local leaders.
“We’re getting fiber connectivity to the home, to the small business, in areas we haven’t before,” Brian Dillard, Chief Innovation Officer with the City of San Antonio told KENS 5.
Dillard says the state has 180 days to submit their proposals to the federal government. He says 20 percent of that $3.3 billion will be allocated at the end of that period.
In April, the city signed an agreement with AT&T to expand broadband access to more than 20,000 residents and businesses within City Council Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. AT&T is paying $13.3 million while the city pays $8.8 million with a mix of general funds and money from the American Rescue Plan Act. Work on that project is expected to start in the next two years.
“The digital economy is only expanding further and further and it’s leaving our residents in the dark if we don’t continue those investments,” Dillard said.
Bexar County, which approved $25 million in ARPA dollars to be allocated for broadband access, is still negotiating with Spectrum to expand services, according to a county spokesperson.
Bello and Gutierrez are waiting for affordable, reliable options to become available.
“We’re just in a bubble here and everyone around us has…high speed internet and we’re just stuck right here,” Bello said.