Millions of additional dollars coming to Louisiana to expand broadband internet across rural parishes

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Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 6:55 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2022 at 10:44 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Internet has become a luxury in West Feliciana.

“I think it’s beyond frustration,” Ted Plumb said.

Plumb is one of thousands of people in the parish who either don’t have access to internet, or can’t afford it.

Plumb says it’s so bad that he can’t send an email, or even do a single Google search from his home in Jackson, LA.

He’s now found himself spending at least 50 hours a week at the library in St. Francisville just to finish his work.

“We would come here and apply for jobs, and then we would come here and use the study room to interview for jobs,” Plumb said.

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that over $35 million will be distributed to bring affordable high-speed internet to nearly 15,000 locations within the next 18-24 months.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also announced that Louisiana is the first state in the nation to receive two grant awards funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will help expand internet service statewide: a Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program planning grant for $2,000,000 and a State Digital Equity Planning Grant for $941,542.28.

“In 2019, we set a goal to close Louisiana’s digital divide by 2029, and this announcement is another step in the right direction,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “I am so grateful for the progress we are making thanks to help from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Some of us take access to broadband for granted, but there are still many people who do not have a reliable or affordable connection, especially in the rural parts of our state. If we can connect those communities, we will improve health outcomes, grow our economy, increase access to educational opportunities, and enhance quality of life for so many people.”

The money will help close the digital divide by addressing access, affordability, literacy and the lack of devices.

“Down here, it’s really sorry,” Jamie Johns said.Jones told us what should only take him 5 or 10 minutes to upload something online does not compare to how long it takes at home.”Man, about a day or two. Just to finish uploading,” Johns said. Gov. Edwards says the goal is to completely close the state’s digital divide by 2029.Until that happens, Plumb says most people will continue to feel like outsiders compared to other parts of the state.”We have to stay more boxed off from society somewhat in some ways,” Plumb said.

The West Feliciana Parish Library will start offering computer skills training and literacy classes. For more information, click here.

Back in July, Gov. Edwards announced the first wave of GUMBO awards as a result of a $130 million investment from the American Rescue Plan to provide broadband 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 GUMBO. Click here to read.

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