BATON ROUGE, La. – Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards in partnership with Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson, state Representative Daryl Deshotel, ConnectLA and Swyft Telecom broke ground on the largest GUMBO project in the state that will bring high-speed affordable and reliable internet to 9,140 households and 535 small businesses in Avoyelles Parish. The total project cost is $20,565,700 of which the state will provide $9,767,900 in federal funds from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This represents a match of 53 percent. The project is expected to be complete in summer 2024.
In addition, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Davidson announced that Louisiana will receive nearly $1.4 billion to help eliminate the digital divide statewide. Specifically, these funds will be used to expand access and affordability, help improve digital skills and provide workforce training. The collective impact of the $176 million in federal funds plus the $1.4 billion will ensure that all Louisianans have access to high-speed, affordable and reliable internet.
“Today is an exciting day, and we are grateful to the Biden-Harris administration, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson, as well as Senator Bill Cassidy and Congressman Troy Carter for being true partners in our efforts to eliminate the digital divide by 2029. This is a big step towards that goal,” said Gov. Edwards. “Avoyelles now joins a long list of parishes where similar projects are underway and people are receiving access to high speed and affordable internet. Thanks to work by Veneeth Iyengar, director of ConnectLA, state legislators and community partners, Louisiana is leading the country in how quickly we are bringing broadband to every corner of our state.”
“In Louisiana, thousands of families lack access to a high-speed internet connection, or lack the means to use it. That’s about to change,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson. “Thanks to the Biden Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Louisiana will receive the federal funding it needs to bring affordable, reliable high-speed internet service to everyone in the state.”
“The pandemic laid bare the urgency of closing the digital divide for all Americans – especially those living in rural, Tribal, and low-income communities,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. “Today’s grant announcement in Avoyelles Parish represents a significant step in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America Agenda which includes an unprecedented investment to increase access to high-speed internet and reduce broadband bills for every American household and business.”
Later in the afternoon, Gov. Edwards along with Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Kim Hunter Reed and ConnectLA announced a partnership with EducationSuperHighway to help promote the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a long-term benefit to help lower-income families pay for high-speed internet.
“Internet access is essential for so many important areas of daily life including education, helping businesses, creating jobs as well as expanding access to healthcare and government services,” said Gov. Edwards. “We need to make sure everyone, everywhere, has a chance to connect, which is why we are committed to helping families cover the costs of high-speed internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program.”
The ACP is a $14.2 billion federal broadband benefit funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIL), which provides eligible households with a discount of up to $30 per month (up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands) and a one-time $100 discount toward a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet. Approximately 904,200 Louisiana households are eligible for the ACP, yet only 461,200 (51% of those who are eligible) have enrolled.
“Our goal in Louisiana is to guarantee that access to education and skills training is available to all citizens. Today’s announcement highlights that connectivity is a basic infrastructure need as well as a critical avenue to education and skills training,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Kim Hunter Reed. “In a state with our level of poverty, we must focus on equity of opportunity. Ensuring our students have access to affordable high-speed internet is a critical component of our talent development efforts.”
“Louisiana is leading the way in closing the digital divide by ensuring eligible households know about the Affordable Connectivity Program, can easily enroll, and then sign up for high-speed internet service,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “We applaud Governor Edwards’ bold leadership in removing the barriers that keep millions unconnected.”