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RULE §16.40Evaluation Criteria

(a) The office shall establish the eligibility and award criteria applicable for each round of competitive grant funding by publishing the criteria in a notice of funds availability as provided by §16.31 of this subchapter. In establishing eligibility and award criteria, the office shall:

  (1) prioritize applications that expand access to and adoption of broadband service in designated areas in which the highest percentage of broadband serviceable locations are unserved or underserved locations;

  (2) prioritize applications that expand access to broadband service in public and private primary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education;

  (3) prioritize applications that connect end-user locations with end-to-end fiber optic facilities that meet speed, latency, reliability, consistency, scalability, and related criteria as the office shall determine;

  (4) give preference to applicants that provide the information requested by the office under Government Code, §490I.0105 and §490I.01061; and

  (5) take into consideration whether an applicant has forfeited federal funding for defaulting on a project to deploy qualifying broadband service.

(b) In addition to the evaluation criteria provided under subsection (a) of this section, the office may include and provide preferences for the following evaluation criteria in the notice of funds availability:

  (1) application participant(s) experience;

  (2) technical specifications including broadband transmission speeds (Mbps upload and download) that will be deployed as a result of the project;

  (3) estimated project completion date;

  (4) the availability of matching funds including amount, percentage, and source of matching funds;

  (5) cost effectiveness and overall impact as measured by the total project cost, the total number of prospective broadband service locations to be served by the project, the proportion of unserved and underserved locations to be served by the project compared to the number of serviceable locations within the designated area(s) the project is located, the proportion of recipients to be served by the project compared to the population of the designated area(s) in which the project is located, and the project cost per prospective broadband service recipient;

  (6) geographic location including, but not limited to, rural areas where because of population density the cost of broadband expansion is characterized by disproportionately high capital and operational costs;

  (7) community, non-profit, or cooperative support or participation in the project;

  (8) affordability of broadband services in the areas in which the proposed project is located prior to the deployment of broadband services as a result of the project;

  (9) consumer price of broadband services that applicant proposes to deploy as a result of the project;

  (10) participation in federal programs that provide low-income consumers with subsidies for broadband services;

  (11) small business and historically underutilized business involvement or subcontracting participation; and

  (12) any additional factors the office may determine are necessary to further the expansion and adoption of broadband service.

(c) Notwithstanding subsection (a)(3) of this section, the office may consider an application for a broadband infrastructure project that does not employ end-to-end fiber optic facilities if the use of an alternative technology:

  (1) is proposed for a high-cost area;

  (2) may be deployed at a lower cost than deploying fiber optic technology; or

  (3) meets the speed, latency, reliability, consistency, scalability, and related criteria as the office shall determine for each applicable notice of funds availability.

Source Note: The provisions of this §16.40 adopted to be effective February 19, 2023, 48 TexReg 685; amended to be effective March 24, 2024, 49 TexReg 1956

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