BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards was joined by federal, state, locally elected officials and community leaders for the inaugural Broadband Solutions Summit to announce that over $35 million will be distributed to bring affordable high-speed internet to nearly 15,000 locations within the next 18-24 months. Two new parishes (Vernon and LaSalle) will be impacted by this second wave of awards provided through the state’s broadband program, Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO).
Also at today’s event, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) 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.”
“We are grateful that NTIA has quickly approved our plans to draw down the first funds in the country for BEAD and Digital Equity to develop not only the 1st 5-year strategic plan for the state but also the first digital equity plan” said Veneeth Iyengar, ConnectLa Executive Director. “The approach we are going to take to address access, affordability, literacy and the lack of devices will be highly innovative and move Louisiana’s economy forward.”
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.