The pandemic has reinforced the concept of staying connected, whether it’s because of remote work, virtual school, or staying in touch with friends and family. Technology has evolved rapidly over the last few decades, but the connection is still too difficult for too many. Broadband availability is still limited in some rural and remote areas, and expanding access is critical. Millions of Americans have slow and/or substandard connections to the internet as many state governments are trying to figure out solutions. People in these communities need solutions to be able to work, build communities and stay connected.
That’s why hearing about Louisiana’s $180 million plan for expanding broadband access is a step in the right direction. Currently, a federal broadband grant is now accepting applications from state governments collaborating with broadband service providers.
Expanding Broadband Access
In May, Iowa focused on expanding broadband access. Governor Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law to help because many rural areas lacked access. The legislature allocated $100 million for this program with Reynolds coming up with an additional $20 million from federal COVID-19 funds. Louisiana is now joining Iowa to make connections possible for more people.
Louisiana plans to spend $180 million over the next three years on this goal. These grants will go to telecommunication firms to construct broadband infrastructure in underserved/remote communities. The goal of closing the technology gap is a good one. This will be especially important in rural areas of the state where the shortfall was further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The dispersion of residents in rural areas disincentivizes internet providers from setting up broadband infrastructure.
“You couldn’t get things done because it just took too long, it crippled, and in some cases paralyzed, the city,” said Jennifer Vidrine, mayor of Ville Platte, La. “It was a nightmare.”
Louisiana lawmakers earmarked millions of dollars of federal COVID-19 relief funds to subsidize broadband projects. Governor John Bel Edwards’s newly created Office of Broadband Development and Connectivity will run this program. Firms will have to cover at least 20% of costs and provide high-speed internet at affordable prices for five years in order to qualify.
We’re glad to hear that the state of Louisiana has taken this step toward broadband expansion. Grants that help connect more people benefit all of us. At GrantWatch, we have an entire category dedicated to technology grants. For more information, you can also visit the GrantWatch FAQ page.