TEXARKANA -- By the end of the year, locals could have new access to affordable high-speed internet service and a place to plan new businesses, thanks to the efforts of AR-TX Regional Economic Development Inc.
REDI plans to install a 131-mile fiber-optic "backbone" in a "big, big loop" around Bowie County, Texas, connecting all school districts within it and county-owned facilities, President and CEO Rob Sitterley said Friday. Residential and business customers could then connect to the network and take advantage of 100 Mbps upload and 100 Mbps download speeds.
The project is in partnership with Bowie County, Texarkana College and Four States Fiber, a subsidiary of Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative, which will install the cable and serve as internet service provider. Sitterley said the co-op business model will increase affordability.
"Being a cooperative, their mission aligned perfectly with ours, which is providing a service at virtual cost," Sitterley said. "They're the perfect partner for us."
The buildout will also benefit Texarkana College students seeking tech training and work experience, he said.
Bowie County has set aside funding for the initiative, and REDI is applying for grant funding from the Texas Broadband Office.
"Hopefully through the state we'll get some extra support. If not, then we've got some some folks on the REDI board that are interested in making this dream a reality," Sitterley said.
Installing the initial fiber backbone will take only two to three months.
"The buildout to homes, once the ring is built, would be a little longer. But the ring was designed to touch thousands and thousands of homes. So right off the bat there will be opportunities for people to sign up and get on and start connecting at $50 or less a package per month," Sitterley said.
REDI has also formed a working group and is looking at downtown properties to house a business incubator space where entrepreneurs can collaborate. It will be called The Assembly Line.
"The biggest death to creative folks is being alone, and we need to foster and find a place that we can bring them together and have them work together and be around like-minded folks," Sitterley said.
REDI is applying for state grant assistance for this project, as well, and could choose a building and begin refurbishing it as early as this summer.
"We think it's a perfect fit for downtown," Sitterley said.