KILGORE — A regional agency representing 14 counties has received a federal grant to work toward better broadband access.

The East Texas Council of Governments announced Wednesday that it received the grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The grant includes $375,000 in federal money and $161,000 in local matching funds, according to Jorge Ayala, the regional director of the federal agency.

Under the grant, the Council of Governments will create a strategic plan for deploying broadband infrastructure to businesses in each of its member counties.

The counties to be served are Smith, Gregg, Rusk, Upshur, Van Zandt, Rains, Wood, Henderson, Anderson, Cherokee, Camp, Harrison, Panola and Marion.

David Cleveland, the executive director of the Council of Governments, said the strategic plan would involve creating public-private partnerships.

"It's been a decade worth of effort to get it to this point," he said, describing how the Council of Governments had attempted a few times before to secure funding for broadband in East Texas.

"It's great to see some of our broadband providers also in the

room," he said. "They're part of our partnership to make this whole project happen now and in the future."

Cleveland also assured internet service providers in the room that his organization has no intention of building its own infrastructure, and wants to work with current providers both big and small.

"We look forward to that public-private partnership yielding something that can start the process of improving your broadband," Ayala said.

Ayala said the administration wants to use the Council of Government's strategic plan to pursue similar work across the country.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

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