Saturday, April 20, 2024

Internet, TV association members investing millions in rural broadband expansion in Louisiana

by BIZ Magazine

BATON ROUGE — LCTA – The Internet & Television Association is excited to announce that its members have been awarded $37 million to put towards rural broadband internet projects worth more than $76 million across 24 parishes bringing internet access to over 14,000 locations for the first round of Louisiana’s Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities Fund grant program (GUMBO). 

“The GUMBO award highlights the major investment Louisiana’s internet and television industry is making in this state, committing to invest nearly $40 million to expand access and opportunity in Louisiana,” said LCTA Executive Director Lauren Chauvin. 

GUMBO provides grants to companies who provide high-speed internet to unserved and underserved areas at affordable prices for a minimum of five years. GUMBO is administered by Louisiana’s ConnectLA office. 

“We are proud of the process and are looking forward to seeing the benefits of this money in the community; construction on awarded projects could begin within the next 60 days,” says ConnectLA Executive Director, Veneeth Iyengar. “We cannot eliminate the digital divide by 2029 without great industry partners.” 

According to the ConnectLA website, GUMBO applications were evaluated and scored based on 23 objective criteria, which include applicant experience, technical ability, financial wherewithal, matching funds, local government support, the number of unserved locations affected, leveraging infrastructure, pricing, and small business and veteran participation. Projects receiving higher total scores were selected for awards. 

“High-speed internet is going to be a game changer for my constituents,” says Louisiana’s Broadband for Everyone in Louisiana (BEL) Commission, Vice Chairman, Rep. Turner (R-Lincoln and Union). “Public-private partnerships are vital to bringing high-speed internet to rural Louisiana.” 

The GUMBO Fund, authored by Rep. Deshotel (R-Avoyelles), was enacted during the 2021 Regular Legislative Session. The funds are provided by the federal government through the American Rescue Plan Act. 

“Now is when the real work starts.” said Rep. Deshotel. “It’s time for government to get out of the way and private industry to get to work and start building out the infrastructure that will bring broadband to all Louisiana citizens.” 

A second wave of award announcements is expected in October. 

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