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State asks residents to complete broadband survey

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 7:27 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Internet access has been a big topic of discussion following last year’s storms, and in Southwest Louisiana, we’ve seen firsthand the struggle that natural disasters can pose to the communication grid.

Even before the hurricanes, a lot of people in and around Southwest Louisiana, especially in rural areas, had little to no internet access. However, a new survey is aiming to bring more high-speed options to the area, but it needs your help in order to get there.

In an effort to improve broadband coverage in rural areas, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, DVM, is urging people to fill out a quick survey.

“The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is launching the Delta Broadband Mapping Project. It is a year-long discovery process in which to determine broadband accessibility throughout an eight-state region,” said Strain.

The information gathered will help create a map to determine which communities are in need of grants and other resources to improve broadband in their communities.

”The first step of fixing the problem is understanding the problem. So, by mapping and with this money coming down federally and also here in the state, it’s going to help,” Strain said.

Thanks to funds included in the American Rescue Plan, states are able to begin planning a massive upgrade to their broadband infrastructure.

”So that we can get the broadband in these areas and then make it affordable for everyone to use,” said Strain.

According to Strain, our state isn’t wasting any time getting to the root of the problem.

”In Iowa, there’s only 53% coverage. So, half the area doesn’t have coverage. So, the important thing now is that the DRA is putting together this new broadband initiative.”

Part of that partnership is an online community survey to collect data on the current broadband situation.

Erin Davison, a local business exec who has personally advocated for more internet options, says having the right infrastructure and providers is vital for our area.

”Even though Lake Charles is proper, we are considered rural. But what really aggravates me the most is when the world doesn’t really recognize that we are very critical to the ecosystem and economic system globally,” Davison said.

After Hurricane Laura, the communication grid took a big hit - challenges that can still be felt almost nine months later.

”I think everybody should have the consumer choice to have any provider they want in our region. And they decide if they can afford it or not,” said Davison. “These are conversations and plans that are critical, and I’m glad that they’re happening.”

“Infrastructure and broadband challenges are ongoing problems in rural communities. Improving technology in rural communities will also improve access to critical services such as healthcare, distance learning and working remotely,” added Strain.

The DRA was established in 2000 by Congress to invest federal appropriations into the Delta communities. The goal is to create jobs and enhance economic development in those areas. Besides Louisiana, the DRA states include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

The survey can be accessed here: https://dra.gov/research/broadband-mapping/#speedtest.

DRA needs as many residents as possible to take this internet speed test to develop an accurate representation availability across the 252 counties and parishes.

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