Saturday, April 13, 2024

Gov. Edwards, White House and local officials celebrate high-speed internet in Lafourche Crossing

by BIZ Magazine

Gov. John Bel Edwards joined members of the Biden-Harris administration Monday along with members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation, local officials, state lawmakers and other stakeholders to announce the completion of the Lafourche Crossing GUMBO project that will help further close the digital divide across Louisiana.

Taking part in the celebration were White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, White House Senior Advisor Mitch Landrieu, Congressman Garret Graves, Congressman Troy Carter, and Lafourche Parish President Archie Chaisson as well as the CEO of REV, Josh Descant. This project will directly provide high-speed affordable reliable internet to 44 households and small businesses in Lafourche Crossing and an additional 72 households in the Lafourche area.

“Louisiana is leading the nation in addressing the digital divide, and today’s announcement is another example of the tremendous progress we’ve made in the last several months on projects statewide to expand affordable and accessible internet service that are either under construction or have been completed,” said Gov. Edwards. “As we approach the heart of hurricane season, it is especially gratifying to know that a majority of the network was built underground to bolster the community’s resilience and protection during any emergency that might arise. This is the first of many projects that will be built in Southeast Louisiana.”

He continued, “From Lafourche Parish to St. Martin, Iberia, East Carroll and all the parishes in between, our strong network of internet service providers are accelerating the buildout of networks to ensure no one gets left behind as we move closer to our goal of closing the digital divide. I want to thank REV and their leadership team for working quickly to provide an efficiently built and resilient network. Of course, none of this would be possible without President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan that allowed federal funds to be invested in communities like this one and others for these much-needed projects.”

Gov. Edwards has set a goal of closing the state’s digital divide by 2029, and the State Office of Broadband (ConnectLA) Director Veneeth Iyengar and his team have worked aggressively to achieve that goal by addressing issues around access, affordability, digital skills and devices while balancing resilience, workforce demands for now and in the future. GUMBO stands for Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband and this past June, it was announced by the White House and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that Louisiana has received the eighth largest allocation of federal dollars from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) in the country and 10th largest on a per capita basis.

Louisiana has set the pace for other states to follow in expanding affordable and accessible high-speed internet services to unserved areas, especially rural communities. It was the first in the country to receive planning funds from the BEAD (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment) program. Louisiana was also the first to receive approval from the NTIA to formally drawdown planning funds from the BIL, and the first in the nation in terms of adoption from the Federal Communication’s Commission for the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Program (ACP) that has benefitted nearly 500,000 Louisianans.

“I’m excited to be coming home to South Louisiana to celebrate more Louisianans getting connected to broadband, an accomplishment made possible thanks to historic legislation signed by President Biden,” said Shalanda Young, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. “Under this President’s leadership, we’re investing in America—making sure that Federal resources are getting to communities that have historically been left behind.”

“Access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury – it is an essential tool to access education, healthcare, and jobs,” said Mitch Landrieu, Senior Advisor to the President and White House Infrastructure Coordinator. “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda has made the largest investment in high-speed internet in our country’s history to ensure all Americans are connected. Today’s announcement is further proof that we are closing the digital divide in Louisiana and across the country – increasing access to opportunity, leveling the playing field for all, and boosting our economy.”

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