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Faster affordable internet on the horizon for Louisianans

6 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, September 01 2022 Sep 1, 2022 September 01, 2022 6:06 AM September 01, 2022 in News
Source: Associated Press

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Another 15,000 Louisiana homes and businesses are in line to get faster and affordable internet over the next two years.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced during Wednesday’s inaugural Broadband Solutions Summit that an additional $35 million in federal funds, received by the state last year under the American Rescue Plan, will be used to provide broadband in underserved areas.

“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,” Edwards said. “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.”

For thousands of Louisiana households and businesses, affordable high-speed internet is out of reach, making simple tasks of modern living difficult — such as online shopping, telehealth, looking up information on the internet or, simply, streaming movies and shows.

The issue was exacerbated in 2020 when the pandemic forced students into virtual classrooms and people to work from home. Edwards said the lack of affordable high-speed internet was particularly problematic in Louisiana’s rural communities.

“In 2019, we set a goal to close Louisiana’s digital divide by 2029, and this announcement is another step in the right direction,” Edwards said Wednesday.

The $35 million, which Edwards did not expect to announce until October, is the second wave of funds being distributed by Louisiana’s Granting Unserved Municipalities Broadband Opportunities program. In July, Edwards announced the first wave of $130 million to provide broadband to more than 66,000 households and small businesses.

In addition, at Wednesday’s summit it was announced that Louisiana would receive $3 million in planning grants to deploy high-speed Internet networks and developing digital skills training programs, as a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed into law in November.

Edwards said that the “big dollars are yet to come” and believes Louisiana could receive a total of $1 billion from the law to expand broadband access in the state.

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