Allen Parish finds unique way to get broadband funds

Allen Parish Broadband Committee creates an interactive way to collect data of the parish’s internet activity
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 9:35 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The state of Louisiana has received $375 million to extend broadband internet services to the rural areas of the state. Allen Parish officials are working to capitalize on those funds in a unique way.

Many residents in Allen Parish say they have constant problems with their internet. Sharon Beaubouef says it’s not only an annoyance to have these internet problems, but it also interferes with things like virtual learning and running the business she owns.

“We have no way to grow without internet. A business cannot grow. Our children cannot be educated properly,” Beaubouef said. “You cannot home school your children if you do virtual.”

Allen Parish created a special committee called the Allen Parish Broadband Committee. The committee is made up of the Allen Parish School Board, Allen Parish Library, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Allen Parish Police Jury, Oberlin, Kinder, Reeves, Oakdale and Elizabeth.

The committee is working to capitalize on the funds provided by the state to extend the broadband internet services in the parish, especially the rural areas that have constant issues with their internet connectivity.

“There’s a lack of data in a lot of rural parishes, on what the internet speeds actually are in rural areas,” said Allen Parish Administrator and Engineer Jacob Dillehay.

He says the state provided the link for residents to test their internet along with some recommendations for the parishes to collect the data needed for the funds.

Instead of just sending out the test to residents, Allen Parish officials are adding some social media interaction to make the data collection more interesting. They created a Facebook thread where people can post their test results of their internet connectivity, and compete for the “worst internet speed in the parish.”

“By getting them to post their results, that helps with the data collection but also let’s you compare yourself to your neighbors to see what those internet speeds are,” Dillehay said.

He says there were only about 10 tests taken before the Facebook post, and now there is over 230 comments of residents posting screenshots of their results on the thread.

Through the link provided, residents can compare their internet to others in the parish, along with other surrounding parishes and areas. Dillehay says when you look at the map for Allen, many of the residents prove to have poor internet.

“You’ll notice too that almost all of the results are red dots, meaning they have well below what the federal standard is for broadband connectivity,” Dillehay said.

The committee has to provide as much data as possible before the first collection date in October before they can apply for the grant money for the parish. Dillehay says the sooner people in the parish take the test, the better, so they can show the state how much they need the extra funds for residents in Allen Parish.

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