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Louisiana Announces $130M in Broadband Access Grants

More than 66,000 Louisiana homes and businesses are in line to get faster Internet, funded by the first round of GUMBO Grants to build broadband infrastructure in Louisiana's underserved areas, officials have announced.

Broadband
(TNS) — More than 66,000 Louisiana homes and businesses are in line to get faster internet, funded by the first round of GUMBO Grants to build broadband infrastructure in Louisiana's underserved areas, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Monday.

The $130 million in grants are part of a $176 million award the state got from the federal government under the American Rescue Plan earlier this year. The grants were awarded under the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities, or GUMBO, program.

Some of the biggest grants announced Monday included $14.3 million and $13.8 million for Star Communications projects in Iberville and Pointe Coupee parishes, respectively. Other large awards went to projects in Avoyelles, St. Tammany, Caddo, Grant and Sabine parishes.

Edwards made the announcement in Lake Providence in East Carroll Parish, a rural and impoverished parish in northeastern Louisiana where nearly one in three residents don't have access to reliable broadband, according to information from the state.

The lack of high speed internet access, especially in rural areas, exacerbated problems caused by the pandemic, when many children switched to virtual school and many workers worked remotely.

In Louisiana, about 89% of residents have access to broadband service, ranking the state 40th in the country, according to BroadbandNow, a California-based entity.

The grants announced Monday will allow providers to bring internet speeds up in rural areas to a basic broadband level, which is a 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload. They will benefit residents in 50 parishes, according to a statement from the governor's office.

Many of the grants announced Monday are for projects that would expand fiber networks that operate at much higher speeds.

"We learned a great deal from the pandemic about how critical it is to have high-speed internet in Louisiana," Edwards said.

In 2019, Edwards created the Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana Commission and tasked it with ushering the state to universal broadband access by 2029. The following year, he created the Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, which oversees the Gumbo grant program.

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