After a concerned Natchitoches Parish resident posted on Facebook about the broadband access program announced last year by the Natchitoches Parish School Board being put on hold, the NPJ reached out to Finance Director Lee Waskom for an update.
The original money that was set aside for the project, which was to run fiber cable throughout communities in the parish to provide broadband access to students, was removed from the ESSER 2 and 3 funds as more federal funding slowly became available.
Because of this, the School Board has applied for a National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant for $7.99 million and an Emergency Connectivity Fund grant (part of the E-Rate Program) for $4.77 million. Approval was supposed to be announced in November, but Waskom said he expects to hear from both of the grants soon.
The School Board is also planning on applying for round 2 funding through the GUMBO program. GUMBO stands for “Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities. It has $177 million to spend on increasing broadband access to unserved communities in Louisiana. The program defines the unserved as those with download speeds lower than 25mbps and upload speeds lower than 3mbps.
“We still plan on every bit of this project happening,” said Waskom. “We just have to wait right now.”
Overall, it’s just a case of things getting rearranged/redistributed thanks to the government and a little bit of patience will pay off in the end.