The City of Mansfield, located in Northwest Louisiana, on Monday October 25, 2021, voted to conduct a community assessment/feasibility study to determine if the city should build its own municipal fiber-based broadband network.
The five-member council voted unanimously to hire Louisiana Connected to conduct the study. The study, which will be done in partnership with Lit Communities, will take between four to six months to complete and will include cost estimate for the system’s buildout as well as the areas in town that have Internet deficit.
Mayor John H. Mayweather, Sr., was in full support of the feasibility study. He said Conducting a feasibility study is the first step for a partnership with the private sector to provide high-speed and affordable fiber-based broadband to every household and business in the city.
“Representatives of Louisiana Connected were allowed to make a presentation to the City Council at one of our meetings earlier this year regarding a consideration to build our own broadband system,” said Mayweather. “After hearing the advantages of bringing such a network to Mansfield, we were on board then. And now after listening further, we are even more excited about this opportunity. This will be good for all the citizens of Mansfield.”
Students in Mansfield, a majority African-American city, struggled with online education as a result of the pandemic and the lack of adequate broadband in 2020/2021.
“A municipal owned fiber network’s number one goal is to provide affordable, efficient broadband to every household in the city,” said Alderman Joseph Hall. “But at the same time a feasibility study will inform us whether a municipal owned broadband system can pay for itself.”
DeSoto Parish Police Juror Thomas Jones, who has been working on bringing broadband to the parish, believes this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the city of Mansfield and the parish to close the digital divide.
“There are billions of federal and state dollars allocated for cities to build their own broadband system,” said Jones. “I agree with the city’s approach to make the commitment to begin looking at financing and building its own system while at the same time seeking federal and state subsidies to ensure the system is affordable for every household. I am confident DeSoto Parish will work with Mansfield to extend broadband into the rural portions of the parish.”
The feasibility study was encouraged and supported community-wide by elected officials, community leaders and clergy.
“As a parent who struggled to help my kids with remote learning this past year and a half I am so pleased the city of Mansfield is taking the initiative to provide us with an important and necessary utility for our economic future,” said LaKimberly Edwards, a Mansfield resident. “The pandemic revealed that broadband is as crucial to our survival as water and electricity.”
Local supporters of the city moving to build a municipal owned broadband network provided letters to the mayor and Mansfield City Council including elected officials, business leaders, clergy and citizens.
Pastor Anna Jackson with Wesley United Methodist Church is one of several pastors who wrote support letters asking the city to conduct the study and begin the process of building a broadband system.
“The Covid-19 pandemic gave us an indication that remote learning, working and living must be a key part of our long-term economic strategy,” said Rev. Jackson. “This will not be our last pandemic and Mansfield has to arm itself with an efficient broadband system for our own survival.”
Freddie Figgers, CEO of Figgers Communications and a partner with Louisiana Connected said the feasibility study and a subsequent municipal broadband network will be a game changer for Mansfield.
“We are excited to begin this broadband journey with the City of Mansfield. Just as roads have been important to our economy, broadband is the new virtual railroad to the emerging economy,” said Figgers. “It’s essential, not only for infrastructure needs, but for the economic survival of small cities such as Mansfield.”