CAGW Sends Public Information Request on Brownsville, Texas, Broadband Contract | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Sends Public Information Request on Brownsville, Texas, Broadband Contract

State Action

August 22, 2022

Laure Morgan
City Secretary, TRM, CMC, PM, MPA
City Plaza, 1st Floor
1034 E. Levee Street
Brownsville, TX 78520

Dear Ms. Morgan,

It has come to our attention that the city of Brownsville, Texas has contracted to build a middle-mile fiber broadband network, using approximately $20 million of funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and is contracting with Lit Communities and/or BTX Fiber to build a “city-wide broadband network” that may utilize some, or all, of the middle-mile network.  On behalf of the 309 members and supporters of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) in Brownsville, Texas, the 134,502 members and supporters in the state of Texas, and the more than one million CAGW members and supporters nationwide, I submit the following request under the Texas Public Information Act (Texas Government Code 552).[1]

CAGW is seeking the following information:

  1. Any and all agreements between the City of Brownsville, Lit Communities, BTX Fiber, and/or the Brownsville Public Utilities Board for broadband services and the building of a broadband network (“The Agreements”).  The Agreements are referenced in a July 20, 2022, article in the Valley Central News
  2. Any and all documents and communications relating to the utilization or possible utilization of the city of Brownsville and/or the Brownsville Public Utilities Board property or infrastructure to assist in the deployment of broadband pursuant to The Agreements.
  3. Any and all budget documents and communications related to the implementation and funding of The Agreements, including the approximately $20 million middle-mile network and the approximately $70 million “city-wide broadband network.”
  4. Any and all documents and communications relating to construction schedules of the work to be performed pursuant to The Agreements, including the approximately $20 million middle-mile network and the approximately $70 million city-wide broadband network. 
  5. Any and all documents and communications related to required pricing and levels/speeds of broadband service to be offered by Lit Communities and/or BTX Fiber pursuant to The Agreements.
  6. Any and all documents and communications regarding potential revenue sources that could be generated from the middle-mile network.
  7. Any and all documents and communications exhibiting knowledge of or discussing how the broadband network being built pursuant to The Agreements will overbuild existing locations and addresses currently served by existing broadband providers.
  8. Any and all documents and communications to, or from Mr. Rene Gonzales, regarding The Agreements and/or discussions of a broadband network.
  9. Any and all documents and communications related to contingency plans in the event construction to be accomplished pursuant to The Agreements gets behind schedule or exceeds existing budgets.

CAGW is concerned about using taxpayer resources to build government-owned broadband networks where existing broadband networks already exist.  Our May 2021 report detailed the failures and problems of government-owned networks across the country.[2] 

Connecting households without access to broadband is a noble goal.  However, local governments like Brownsville must be accountable and transparent with the taxpayers’ money.  I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding this request for information under the Texas Public Information Act.

Sincerely,
Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

 

[1] Government Code Title 5, Open Government; Ethics, Subtitle A, Open Government, State of Texas Statutes, Title 5, Section 552.104, https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.104.

[2] Deborah Collier and Tom Schatz, “The Folly of Government-Owned Networks,” Citizens Against Government Waste, May 2021, https://www.cagw.org/sites/default/files/pdf/TheFollyofGovernmentOwnedNetworks.pdf.

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