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Fort Bend County is exploring a $36.76 million project to expand broadband access across the region, using federal money to help pay for the plan.

Houston-based consulting firm Cobb Fendley recently determined that a large swath of southwestern Fort Bend County remains underserved by broadband access, according to the results of a feasibility study presented to the commissioners court late last month.

“If you have a plan, ready to go, you’ve got a better chance of getting the funding,” Commissioner Vincent Morales said of the feasibility study.

Essentially, engineers will Cobb Fendley have proposed a $36.76 million project that would construct a network of fiber cables near major thoroughfares in Fort Bend County that could serve as a backbone for internet connectivity across the area.

Several competitive federal programs exist to help secure funding for that project, but they require the county to put forth a 30 percent match, according to Melissa Beaudry, a project manager for Cobb Fendley.

More than 60 percent of Fort Bend County remains undeveloped, and this project would help secure broadband infrastructure for the future growth of Fort Bend County, Judge KP George said.

In response to that feasibility study, the commissioners court this month voted to form a broadband committee, whose goal would be to identify funding venues to secure the needed $36.76 million.

Despite the latest feasibility study showing a wide swath of Fort Bend County is underserved when it comes to internet access, a 2014 study showed that about 99 percent of homes in the area had access to some internet.

But about 9 percent of residents at the time didn’t have access to fast internet, according to the study.

The newest feasibility study shows that about 180,000 county homes are underserved with internet access, according to Robyn Doughtie, the county’s IT director and chief information officer.

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