Saturday, July 13, 2024

Louisiana broadband office earns top ranking for managing Biden infrastructure money

by BIZ Magazine

Conservative think tank says La. tied with Idaho for top spot

BY: WESLEY MULLER – Louisiana Illuminator

Louisiana’s broadband office is ranked best in the nation alongside Idaho for its handling of federal broadband subsidies, according to the right-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute. (Canva image)

Louisiana’s broadband office is ranked best in the nation alongside Idaho for its handling of federal broadband subsidies, according to the right-leaning think tank American Enterprise Institute.

The state Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity, which Gov. John Bel Edwards created in 2020, received top rankings for its management of federal grant programs, tying Idaho for the first place spot with perfect scores in areas such as transparency, efficiency and accountability.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released its annual Broadband Barometer Project report cards to document each state’s handling of federal broadband subsidies. The organization praised the state broadband office for having an easily accessible and informative website, connect.la.gov, and for developing an efficient and well-monitored funding process.

“Overall, transparency and efficiency measures reflect a competitive environment,” the AEI report card noted. “Louisiana is a top-performing state at this time.”

The state’s top ranking comes as it prepares to distribute more than $1.3 billion in federal infrastructure dollars through its second iteration of the Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities (GUMBO 2.0) grant program, which builds on the GUMBO 1.0 program that awarded more than $170 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to more than 65,000 locations throughout 48 parishes.

The funding for both programs came from President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. They are designed to bring high-speed internet access to rural and low-income areas that many legacy internet service providers refused to invest in without government subsidies.

Approximately 79% of the ARPA-funded projects in Louisiana are either actively under construction or have been completed, and the remaining ones should be completed within the next 12 months, according to data from the broadband office.

Gov. Jeff Landry welcomed news of the accolade.

“We are focused on moving as quickly and efficiently as possible to help all Louisianans obtain access to reliable, high-speed internet,” Landry said in a news release. “As our state continues to grow and innovate across the board – from industry to education – it is more important than ever that we remain connected to one other. This ranking shows the incredible progress we are already making when it comes to not only broadband access and connectivity, but the economic and community growth that it helps to support.”

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