Gov. John Bel Edwards was joined by state lawmakers, locally elected leaders in North Louisiana and Higher Education Commissioner Kim Hunter Reed on July 25 to announce a $130 million investment from the American Rescue Plan to bring more affordable and accessible internet to more than 66,000 households and small businesses through Internet Service Providers in 50 parishes. Applications for the first phase of the grant were submitted through Louisiana’s broadband grant program called Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO).
The total investment from the American Rescue Plan is $176 million, out of which today’s announcement of $130 million is being used for this first phase. Parishes not included in this first round will have another opportunity to participate in the program. Visit http://www.connect.la.gov to see the list of parishes.
Internet Service Provider: CSC Holdings, LLC
GUMBO Award: $947,947.34
“I was excited to see rural Natchitoches Parish benefit from the first round of the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities(GUMBO) grant program established by the state legislature, said District 22 State Representative Gabe Firment. “Bringing high speed internet to Natchitoches Parish and rural Louisiana has the ability to transform our communities by improving educational outcomes, creating economic development opportunities, and increasing access to healthcare. This first round of GUMBO funding obviously does not immediately solve our broadband challenges in Natchitoches Parish, but it is an important first step in reaching our goal of making high speed internet available to every citizen of Natchitoches Parish. I look forward to working with local leaders and citizens to make sure that the connectivity needs of Natchitoches Parish are prioritized during the second round of GUMBO funding and all subsequent broadband expansion investments.”
The announcement highlights the important groundwork that Gov. Edwards began in 2019 when he signed an executive order creating the Broadband for Everyone Louisiana Commission with the goal of eliminating the digital divide by 2029.
“We learned a great deal from the pandemic about how critical it is to have high-speed internet in Louisiana,” said Gov. Edwards. “With today’s announcement we are one step closer to reaching our goal of eliminating the digital divide in the next seven years. However, we are not just stopping here. We have another $43 million in funds from the ARP we will award by October, and we are expecting an additional significant amount of federal funds from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that will be awarded next year to continue to address access, affordability and literacy.”
Broadband access and affordability are intrinsically linked to better outcomes in education, healthcare, economic development and much more. Federal funds from the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will provide the resources necessary to help Louisiana resolve many of our broadband challenges.